Gareth Jones

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The Enigma of Ireland (v). 
The Western Mail - November 10th, 1933

Why Mr. De Valera Hesitates to Declare a Republic.

Armed Force Independent of Mr. de Valera

By Gareth Jones 

Will Mr. de Valera declare a Republic? That is the greatest enigma in Ireland. 

This curious personality, who still has a great hold over the uneducated masses and almost dictatorial powers over members of his Cabinet, has been destroying some of the links between Ireland and the United Kingdom. 

The Oath of Allegiance has disappeared, and so has the right of appeal to the Privy Council.  But when it comes to declaring a Republic the President hesitates. 

Why does not Mr. de Valera take the bold step and completely cut the slender bond which unites him with the British Commonwealth?  No one can read his mind, but I should suggest that the following are some of the motives which guide him in his refusal to break with Britain. 

There is alarm in Ireland and also in Britain as to what would happen to Irish folk on this side of the Irish Channel if de Valera declared a Republic.  It is conceivable that Irishmen born in Ireland would become aliens in Britain, although that would be a delicate legal point. 

Stupendous Task 

The fate of hundreds of thousands of Irish folk in our large cities, especially in Glasgow and Liverpool, would be a sad one if, as aliens, they were sent back to their native land, or even if they were deprived of their unemployment benefit. It would be a stupendous task or the Irish Government to provide for their subjects deported from Britain. 

If the Irish of the Republic were declared aliens, the outlet in the British Commonwealth for the men of talent who are produced in such large numbers in Dublin would be blocked. 

I talked to a doctor who, as a boy in school, had been in the Sinn Fein intelligence service fighting against the British.  He dreaded the coming of the Republic, for that would make Irish medical degrees invalid outside Ireland, and that would be a severe blow to medical students, most of whom aim at seeking a practice outside their country. 

The Ulster Problem 

Another cause for delay in proclaiming a Republic may be the Ulster problem.  If the President declared a republic for the 26 counties, that is, for the present area of the Free State, his action would amount to recognising the partition of Ireland into two, and no nationalist Irishman would stand for that. 

If he proclaimed a United Irish Republic and considered Ulster as a terra irredenta, he would be running the risk of a war along the Ulster frontier and, in the view of some of his followers, the risk of a war with England.  A break with Britain would deprive Mr. de Valera of a valuable election slogan and political platform, and there would be nothing left to fight for - a really grave situation for any Irish party. 

Ireland would be thrown absolutely n her own resources and the remedy for all evils of “Blame England” would no longer be applicable. 

Blow to Trade 

Moreover, the proclamation of a Republic would deal to trade a blow even more severe than the economic war, and by closing still further the British market would send cattle prices deeper down and increase the number of bankruptcies. 

The Irish pound might even be endangered, although this is a remote possibility, because the Ministry of Finance would in all events try to maintain the link of the Irish pound with the pound sterling. 

The practical reasons against declaring Republic are, therefore, overwhelming, but it is doubtful whether reason will prevail.  Pressure upon the Government to break with the British Commonwealth of Nations is getting ever greater and the I.R.A. is violently impatient. 

Sitting on the Fence 

Mr. de Valera has such popular support that he can long continue sitting on the fence, but the day may come when he will be obliged to yield to emotional clamour. 

He already hears a view such as the following, which is much nearer the truth than the fear of war expressed by some Republicans: “In the event of the re-proclaiming of the Republic, England could do nothing.  She might bluster and threaten and weep about the disintegration of the Empire, but she would take no action.” 

The trend of events in Ireland is towards the Left and, therefore, political observers favour the chances of a Republic.  But none will venture a prophecy, and so I look to the future to answer the question, Will Mr. de Valera declare a Republic?  But I think that the chances are in favour of his doing so.













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