The Irish convention and Sinn Fein



42. We have now set out in order the proceedings of the Convention throughout the eight months of its deliberations. The answer to our Reference, is to be found in the following statement. This statement embodies the conclusions arrived at by majorities, full particulars of which will be found in Appendices X. to XIII.


(1) The Irish Parliament to consist of the King, an Irish Senate, and an Irish House of Commons.
(2) Notwithstanding the establishment of the Irish Parliament or anything contained in the Government of Ireland Act, the supreme power and authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things in Ireland and every part thereof.

Section carried by 51 votes to 18.

2. POWERS OF THE IRISH PARLIAMENT. The Irish Parliament to have the general power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Ireland, subject to the exclusions and restrictions specified in 3 and 4 below.

Section carried by 51 votes to 19.

3. EXCLUSIONS FROM POWER OF IRISH PARLIAMENT. The Irish Parliament to have no power to make laws on the following matters:—
(1) Crown and succession. (See 1914 Act, sect. 2 (1)).
(2) Making of peace and war (including conduct as neutrals). (Act, sect. 2 (2)).
(3) The Army and Navy.
(4) Treaties and foreign relations (including extradition). (Act, sect. 2 (4) ).
(5) Dignities and titles of honour. (Act, sect. 2 (5)).
(6) Any necessary control of harbours for naval and military purposes, and certain powers as regards lighthouses, buoys, beacons, cables, wireless terminals, to be settled with reference to the requirements of the Military and Naval forces of His Majesty in various contingencies. (Act, sect. 2 (9) ). Sub-section carried by 41 votes to 13.
(7) Coinage; legal tender; or any change in the standard of weights and measures. (Act, sect. 2 (10) ).
(8) Copyright or patent rights.

Section carried by 49 votes to 16.

TEMPORARY AND PARTIAL RESERVATION. The Imperial and Irish Governments shall jointly arrange, subject to Imperial exigencies, for the unified control of the Irish Police and Postal services during the war, provided that as soon as possible after the cessation of hostilities the administration of these two services shall become automatically subject to the Irish Parliament.

Carried by 37 votes to 21.

(1) Prohibition of laws interfering with religious equality. (Act, sect. 3).
N.B.—A sub-section should be framed to annul any existing legal penalty, disadvantage or disability on account of religious belief. Certain restrictions still remain under the Act of 1829.
(2) Special provision protecting the position of Freemasons. (Act, sect. 43 (1) and (2)).
(3) Safeguard for Trinity College, and Queen’s University similar to sect. 42 of Act.
(4) Money bills to be founded only on Viceregal message. (Act, sect. 10 (2)).
(5) Privileges, qualifications, etc., of members of Irish Parliament to be limited as in Act. (Act, sect. 12).
(6) Rights of existing Irish Officers to be safeguarded. (Act, sects. 32-7).

Section carried by 46 votes to 15.

5. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Section 9 (4) of the Act of 1914 to apply to the House of Commons with the substitution of “ten years” for “three years.” The constitution of the Senate to be subject to alteration after ten years, provided the Bill is agreed to by two-thirds of the total number of members of both Houses sitting together.

Section carried by 46 votes to 15.

6. EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY. The executive power in Ireland to continue vested in the King, but exercisable through the Lord Lieutenant on the advice of an Irish Executive Committee in the manner set out in Act. (Sect. 4).

Section carried by 45 votes to 15.

7. DISSOLUTION OF IRISH PARLIAMENT. The Irish Parliament to be summoned, prorogued, and dissolved as set out in Act. (Sect. 6).

Section carried by 45 votes to 15.

8. ASSENT TO BILLS. Royal Assent to be given or withheld as set out in Act (sect. 7) with the substitution of “reservation” for “postponement.”

Section carried by 45 votes to 15.

(1) Lord Chancellor … … … … … … … … …… … … … … … … … … … … … .1
(2) Four Archbishops or Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church … … … …4
(3) Two Archbishops or Bishops of the Church^of Ireland … … … … … …  2
(4) A Representative’of the General {Assembly … … … … … … … …. … …  1
(5) The Lord Mayors of Dublin, Belfast, and Cork … … … … … … … … … . 3
(6) Peers resident in Ireland, elected by Peers resident in Ireland … … …15
(7) Nominated by Lord Lieutenant:—
Irish Privy Councillors of at least two years’ standing … … … … … … … .. 4
Representatives of learned institutions] … … … … … … … … … … … … ..  3
Other persons … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … 4
(8) Representatives of Commerce and Industry … … … … … … … … … …15
(9) Representatives of Labour, one for each Province … … … … … … … … 4
(10) Representatives of County Councils two for each Province … … … … 8
… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …  ————
… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … 64

On the disappearance of any nominated element in the House of Commons an addition shall be made to the numbers of the Senate.

Section carried by 48 votes to 19.

(1) The ordinary elected members of the House of Commons shall number 160.
(2) The University of Dublin, the University of Belfast, and the National University shall each return two members. The graduates of each University shall form the constituency.
(3) Special representation shall be given to urban and industrial areas by grouping the smaller towns and applying to them a lower electoral quota than that applicable to the rest of the country. (4) The principle of Proportional Representation, with the single transferable vote, shall be observed wherever a constituency returns three or more members. (Act, sect. 9 (2)).

Sub-section carried by 47 votes to 22.

(5) The Convention accept the principle that forty per cent, of the membership of the House of Commons shall be guaranteed to Unionists. In pursuance of this, they suggest that, for a period, there shall be summoned to the Irish House of Commons 20 members nominated by the Lord Lieutenant, with a view to the due representation of interests not otherwise adequately represented in the provinces of Leinster, Minister, and Connaught, and that 20 additional members shall be elected by Ulster constituencies, to represent commercial, industrial, and agricultural interests.
(6) The Lord Lieutenant’s power of nomination shall be exercised subject to any instructions that may be given by His Majesty the King.
(7) The nominated members shall disappear in whole or in part after 15 years, and not earlier, notwithstanding anything contained in Clause 5.
(8) The extra representation in Ulster not to cease except on an adverse decision by a three-fourths majority of both Houses sitting together.

Sub-section carried by 27 votes to 20.

(9) The House of Commons shall continue for 5 years unless previously dissolved.
(10) Nominated members shall vacate their seats on a dissolution but shall be eligible for renomination. Any vacancy among the nominated members shall be filled by nomination.

Section carried by 45 votes to 20.

(1) Money bills to originate only in the House of Commons, and not to be amended by the Senate. (Act, sect. 10).
(2) The Senate is, however, to have power to bring about a joint sitting over money bills in the same session of Parliament.
(3) The Senate to have power to suggest amendments, which the House of Commons may accept or reject as it pleases.

Section carried by 45 votes to 22.

Disagreements between the two Houses to be solved by joint sittings as set out in Act (sect. 11), with the proviso that if the Senate fail to pass a money bill such joint sitting shall be held in the same session of Parliament.

Section carried by 45 votes to 22.

(1) Representation in Parliament of the United Kigndom to continue. Irish representatives to have the right of deliberating and voting on all matters.
(2) Forty-two Irish representatives shall be elected to the Commons House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the following manner:—
A Panel shall be formed in each of the four Provinces of Ireland, consisting of the members for that Province in the Irish House of Commons, and one other Panel shall be formed consisting of members nominated to the Irish House of Commons. The number of representatives to be elected to the Commons House of the Imperial Parliament shall be on the principle of Proportional Representation.

Sub-section carried by 42 votes to 24.

(3) The Irish representation in the House of Lords shall continue as at present unless and until that Chamber be remodelled, when the matter shall be reconsidered by the Imperial and Irish Parliaments.

Section carried by 44 votes to 22.

1) An Irish Exchequer and Consolidated Fund to be established and an Irish Controller and Auditor-General to be appointed as set out in Act (sect. 14 (1) and sect. 21).
(2) If necessary, it should be declared that all taxes at present leviable in Ireland should continue to be levied and collected until the Irish Parliament otherwise decides. (3) The necessary adjustments of revenue as between Great Britain and Ireland during the transition period ^should be made.

Section carried by 51 votes to 18.

(1) The control of Customs and Excise by an Irish Parliament is to be postponed for further consideration until after the war, provided that the question of such control shall be considered and decided by the Parliament of the United Kingdom within seven years after the conclusion of peace. For the purpose of deciding in the Parliament of the United Kingdom the question of the future control of Irish Customs and Excise, a number of Irish representatives proportioned to the population of Ireland shall be called to the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Sub-section carried by 38 votes to 34.

(2) On the creation of an Irish Parliament, and until the question of the ultimate control of the Irish Customs and Excise services shall have been decided, the Board of Customs and Excise of the United Kingdom shall include a person or persons nominated by the Irish Treasury.

Sub-section carried by 39 votes to 33.

(3) A Joint Exchequer Board, consisting of two members nominated by the Imperial Treasury, and two members nominated by the Irish Treasury, with a Chairman appointed by the King, shall be set up to secure the determination of the true income of Ireland.

Sub-section carried by 39 votes to 33.

(4) Until the question of the ultimate control of the Irish Customs and Excise services shall have been decided, the revenue due to Ireland from Customs and Excise, as determined by the Joint Exchequer Board, shall be paid into the Irish Exchequer.

Sub-section carried by 38 votes to 30.

(5) All branches of taxation, other than Customs and Excise, shall be under the control of the Irish Parliament.

Sub-section carried by 38 votes to 30.

16. IMPERIAL CONTRIBUTION. The principle of such contribution is approved.

Section carried unanimously.

17. LAND PURCHASE. The Convention accept the recommendations of the Sub-Committee on Land Purchase.

Section carried unanimously.

18. JUDICIAL POWER. The following provisions of the Government of Ireland Act to be adopted:—
(a) Safeguarding position of existing Irish Judges. (Sect. 32).
(b) Leaving appointment of future Judges to the Irish Government and their removal to the Crown on address from both Houses of Parliament. (Sect. 27).
(c) Transferring appeals from the House of Lords to the Judicial Committee, strengthened Iby Irish Judges. (Sect. 28).
(d) Extending right of appeal to this Court. (Sect. 28 (4) and sect. 30 (1-2)).
(e) Provision as to reference of questions of validity to Judicial Committee. (See sect. 29).
The Lord Chancellor is not to be a political officer.

Section carried by 43 votes to 17.

19. LORD LIEUTENANT. The Lord Lieutenant is not to be a political officer. He shall hold office for 6 years, and nether he nor the Lords Justices shall be subject to any religious disqualification. (See Act of 1914, sect. 31). His salary shall be sufficient to throw the post open to men of moderate means.

Section carried by 43 votes to 17.

(1) There shall be a Civil Service Commission consisting of representatives of Irish Universities which shall formulate a scheme of competitive examinations for admission to the public service, including statutory administrative bodies, and no person shall be admitted to such service unless he holds the certificate of the Civil Service Commission.
(2) A scheme of appointments in the public service, with recommendations as to scales of salary for the same shall be prepared by a Commission consisting of an independent Chairman of outstanding position in Irish public life, and two colleagues, one of whom shall represent Unionist interests.
(3) No appointments to positions shall be made before the scheme of this Commission has been approved.

Section carried by 42 votes to 18. 21.

Arrangements to be made to permit the Irish Government, if they so desire, to defer taking over the services relating to Old Age Pensions, National Insurance, Labour Exchanges Post Office Trustee Savings Banks, and Friendly Societies.

Section carried by 43 votes to 18.

43. In conclusion, we have pleasure in recording our high appreciation of the unremitting service rendered to us by our Secretary, Lord Southborough, at every stage of our protracted labours. He has placed at our disposal the wise counsel and ripe experience of a distinguished public servant, and to him and all the members of our efficient Secretariat we tender our cordial thanks.
44. The Chairman and Secretary have the honour, by direction of the Convention, to submit the foregoing Report of its Proceedings to His Majesty’s Government.

Paragraph 44 carried by 42 votes to 36.
The whole Report carried by 44 votes to 29.

5th April, 1918.



1. We, the Ulster Unionist Members of the Convention, find ourselves unable to concur in the Chairman’s Drait Report. We protest against its implication that a measure of agreement regarding Irish Self-Government was attained, which in fact was not the case as is evidenced by the record of the Divisions. The provisional conclusions on minor matters which were arrived at in Committee were strictly contingent on agreement on the vital issues. These were fundamental—and upon them no agreement was at any time visible. On many of the important questions the Nationalists were sharply divided. All discussions were “without prejudice” and subject to complete agreement being reached on the whole Scheme. Absolute freedom of action as regards decision in Convention on all points was reserved and this was clearly indicated throughout the proceedings.

2. In confirmation of this statement the following extract from Lord MacDonnell’s Memorandum issued to the Convention on 8th March, 1918, may be quoted:—

“It is true that this report does not bind the Grand Committee, still less the Convention, even on the points on which no difference of opinion is recorded, because all the provisional understandings which were arrived at were contingent on a full agreement on the general scheme being reached; and it cannot be said this agreement has been reached.”

3. In order that an accurate estimate may be formed of the origin and purpose of the Irish Convention, it is necessary to recall the political situation as it existed in the early summer of 1917.

4. The Home Rule Act of 1914, to which Ulster was inexorably opposed, had been placed on the Statute Book, in disregard of the truce entered into at the beginning of the war, at which time an Amending Bill excluding Ulster from the Act had passed through its initial Parliamentary stages with general consent and was postponed in consequence of the European situation.

5. Yielding to the demands of the Nationalists, the Prime Minister, in a letter addressed to Mr. John Redmond, on 16th May, 1917, offered:—

(a) A “bill for the immediate application of the Home Rule Act to Ireland, but excluding therefrom the six Counties of North-East Ulster”; or, alternatively,
(b) A Convention of Irishmen “for the purpose of drafting a Constitution for their country . . . which should secure a just balance of all the opposing interests.”

6. Mr. Redmond refused the first proposal, but acquiesced in the suggestion of a Convention, in which Ulster Unionists were invited to join. On 21st May, 1917, in announcing the Government’s intention to summon the Convention, the Prime Minister said: “No one—I want to make this quite clear—by the mere fact of going to the Convention can be assumed to be pledged to the acceptance or the rejection of any particular proposal or method for the Government of Ireland.”

7. Ulster Unionists felt some natural hesitancy in sending delegates to the Convention, but relying absolutely on this pledge, and on further pledges given by the Prime Minister and Mr. Asquith, that Ulster would not be forced to come under a Dublin Parliament, they ultimately consented. In taking this course the Ulster Unionists were animated by the desire to do what was best for the Empire, for Great Britain, and for Ireland. They were satisfied with the Constitution under which they had lived and prospered, and they desired to continue under the Union which they still believe to be the form of Government best suited to the needs of Ireland and best calculated to maintain the stability of the Empire. They were ready, however, to consider any plan that might be put forward, provided it would increase the happiness and comfort of the people and at the same time maintain the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament.

8. Ulster Unionists, who have thrown themselves whole-heartedly into the war, deplore the fact that in this great world crisis, when their entire energies ought to be devoted to providing men and munitions, they should be even temporarily diverted from vital national issues on which the very existence of the Empire depends in order to again take up a subject the consideration of which had been rightly postponed on the outbreak of hostilities.

9. In view of Ulster’s well-known doubts and fears and of the undeniable fact that the declared object of the Convention was to “secure a just balance of all opposing interests” it was not unnatural to assume that the Nationals were prepared to offer a modus vivendi, and formulate proposals of local Parliamentary government for Ireland which would at least:—

(1) Provide for the absolute supremacy of the Imperial Parliament;
(2) Maintain the existing fiscal unity;
(3) Guarantee protection for the undoubted rights of the Unionist minority;
(4) Ensure the safety of Irish industrial enterprises, the vast proportion of which are situated in the North-Eastern Counties of Ulster, and from which the bulk of the Irish Revenue is derived.

10. We expected that the real work of the Convention would have been directed to a sincere and patriotic endeavour to find common ground somewhere between the 1914 Act on the one hand, and the views of Ulster on the other. From the first week in which the Convention sat we urged this course, and repeatedly expressed our disappointment that almost every Nationalist speech outlined a form of Home Rule far in advance of any previous claim.

11. The Scheme which was finally brought forward by the Bishop of Raphoe OH behalf of the Nationalists included the following demands:—

First—A Sovereign Independent Parliament for Ireland co-equal in power and authority with the Imperial Parliament.
Second—Complete Fiscal Autonomy for Ireland, including:—

(a) Power of imposing tariffs and control of Excise, involving, as it would, the risk of hostile tariffs against Great Britain and the disturbance of free intercourse between the two countries; (b) Right of making Commercial Treaties with foreign countries;
(c) Full powers of direct taxation.

Third—Right to raise and maintain a Military (territorial) Force in Ireland.
Fourth—Repudiation of any liability for the National Debt on the plea of over-taxation of Ireland in the past. Subject to the consent of the Irish Parliament, the principle of a small annual contribution towards Imperial expenditure was admitted.
Fifth—Denial of the right of the Imperial Parliament to impose Military Service in Ireland unless with the consent of the proposed Irish Parliament.

12. When the Clause claiming Fiscal Autonomy for Ireland was reached, it soon became evident that no real approach towards agreement was possible. At that stage the Chairman endeavoured to get over the deadlock by putting a series of questions to the Nationalists and to the Ulster Unionists, and the replies sent in speak for themselves. The real object of these proposals was clearly apparent in the official reply to the Chairman’s queries of 6th November, signed by the following Nationalist Leaders:—John Redmond, the Lord Bishop of Raphoe, Joseph Devlin, George Russell.

13. In this document the Nationalists again emphatically insisted upon their demand for Ireland’s fiscal independence, and crystalised their argument in the following terms:—”We regard Ireland as a National, an economic entity. Self-government does not exist where those nominally entrusted with aftairs of Government have not control of fiscal and economic policy.”

14. It is, therefore, clear that Fiscal Autonomy including the control of Customs and Excise and National taxation is valued by the Nationalists not only on the ground of supposed economic advantage but as an essential symbol of National independence. In opposition to this Ulster takes a firm stand on the basis of the people’s common prosperity, and maintains that the Fiscal unity of the United Kingdom must be preserved intact, carrying with it as it does the sovereignty of the Imperial Parliament and due representation therein.

15. The important question of how far Ireland should contribute to Imperial taxation raised much controversy. In the earlier stages of the discussions some prominent Nationalists stated quite frankly that they recognised no responsibility for any portion of the pre-war National Debt, nor for the present war expenditure, whilst we claimed that in justice and in honour Ireland must continue to pay her full share of both. The majority of the Nationalists declined to admit such liability.

16. During the financial year just ended Ireland’s Imperial contribution will, it is estimated, amount to about thirteen millions sterling, and possibly to twenty millions next year.

An important section of the Nationalists objected to any Imperial contribution being paid, but the larger number favoured a contribution ranging from two and a half to four and a half millions sterling per annum. It was invariably a condition that the contribution should be purely voluntary and at the pleasure of the Irish Parliament. We listened to these suggestions with keen disappointment, knowing of no reason why Ireland, which is abundantly prosperous, should not in the hour of the Empire’s need contribute her full share of men and money. We have always contended that there should be equality of sacrifice in every part of the United Kingdom.

17. As already pointed out, a further Clause in the Bishop of Raphoe’s Scheme with which we found it impossible to agree claimed that compulsory Military Service could not be imposed upon Ireland by Great Britain unless with the consent of the Irish Parliament, and this demand was supported by a majority vote of the Convention.

18. Again, it was claimed that, in contradistinction to the provisions of all previous Home Rule Bills, the Royal Irish Constabulary, a semi-Military Force, should immediately at the conclusion of the war come tinder the control of the Irish Parliament. The 1914 Act provided that this Force should remain under Imperial control for a period of six years. In the present state of Ireland such a proposal must be regarded as “excessively dangerous.” This is the opinion expressed by the Inspector-General of the Force, whose statement appears in the Appendices I.C. 27.

19. Failing any evidence of an approach to a narrowing of our differences, and in view of the new demands made and adhered to by the Nationalists, we were finally forced to declare that in any such scheme of Self-Government for Ireland Ulster could not participate. We cannot overlook the strong probability that the controlling force in such a Parliament would to-day be the Republican or Sinn Fein Party, whichio openly and aggressively hostile to Great Britain and to the Empire. During recent months in many parts of Ireland, outside of Ulster, there has been a great renewal of lawlessness, and crime bordering on anarchy, which unfortunately has not been adequately dealt with by the Irish Executive.

20. A most remarkable situation arose in the Convention when a vote was taken on the proposal to adjourn the proceedings until an assurance was received from the Government that they would promptly take effective steps to restore law and order and repress outrage throughout Ireland. Fifty Nationalist Members voted against that proposal, and 33 Members, including the Ulster Unionists, voted for it.

21. A proposal was brought forward, under which, in an Irish Parliament Unionists should have a temporary representation largely in excess of what they are entitled to on the basis of population. While appreciating the spirit of this offer it was felt, after full consideration, that the undemocratic character of this proposal rendered it wholly unacceptable.

22. 0n the Land Question a Report containing valuable suggestions was submitted by the Committee to which the subject had^been referred. This Report was unanimously adopted as there was a desire amongst all sections to have the great regenerative scheme of Land Purchase completed without further delay.

23. The Committee appointed to consider the urgent necessity for providing additional Workmen’s houses in Urban Districts reported in favour ot comprehensive schemes being at once undertaken by the Local Authorities, an Imperial grant in aid to be provided by the Treasury. This Report was also unanimously adopted.

24. We regret that instead of proposals being made to remove our objections, the policy pursued by the Nationalists in the Convention strengthened our opinion that Home Rule would intensify existing divisions in Ireland and prove a constant menace to the Empire. Had we thought that the majority of the Convention intended to demand, not the subordinate powers contained in previous Home Rule Bills, but what is tantamount to full national independence, we could not have agreed to enter the Convention.

25. While firmly believing that Home Rule would be inimical to the highest interests of Ireland and the Empire, Ulster Unionists, with the object of meeting the Nationalists, presented an alternative scheme for the exclusion of Ulster based on lines agreed to by the official Nationalist Party in 1916.

26. The discussions have proved beyond doubt that the aim of the Nationalists is to establish a Parliament in Ireland which would be practically free from effective control by the Imperial Parliament. It is only necessary to draw attention to modern political movements to realise the unwisdom of establishing within the United Kingdom two Parliaments having co-equal powers. All other countries have fought against this disintegrating policy.

27. The Australian States, weary of local commercial disputes, combined in one fiscal unit in which they were joined by Tasmania—an Island much akin to Ireland in the matter of area.

28. The United States of America established, at the cost of much blood and treasure, National unity when the Confederacy claimed, like the Irish Nationalists, the right to set up an Independent Government.

29. With these and other examples before us we cannot help feeling that the demands put forward, if conceded, would create turmoil at home and weakness abroad.

30. One of the many objections to the Scheme presented in the Report is that it would make the future application of Federalism to the United Kingdom impossible.

31. For the reasons stated we could not accept the proposals put forward by the Nationalists.

32. We desire to record our appreciation of the uniform courtesy and good feeling which characterised the proceedings of the Convention throughout.

Hugh T. Barrie.
Crawford McCullagh.
R. G. Sharman-Crawford (Col.).
R. N. Anderson.
M. E. Knight.
John Irwin.
John Hanna.
H. B. Armstrong.
J. Jackson Clark.
G. S. Clark.
Robert H. Wallace (Col.).
J. Stouppe F. McCance.
H. Grattan MacGeagh.
W. Whitla.
James Johnston, Lord Mayor of Belfast.
H. M. Pollock.
John McMeekan.

5th April, 1918.


We have not found it possible to vote for the conclusion reached by the majority of the members of this Convention. It involves, in our opinion, either of two alternatives:—

(1) The coercion of Ulster, which is unthinkable.
(2) The partition of Ireland, which would be disastrous.

We have more than once put forward a Federal Scheme based on the Swiss or Canadian precedent, which might ensure a united Ireland with provincial autonomy for Ulster, or any other Province that desired it. This scheme would also be capable of being adapted to some larger scheme of Imperial Federation for the whole British Empire.

J. P. MAHAFFY, Provost of Trinity College.

JOHN B. ARMAGH, Primate.


1. The object set before the Convention was to frame a Constitution for Ireland within the Empire. This was the first time the Government had assigned such a commission to a body of Irishmen, and we approached the task with a deep sense of the gravity of the circumstances in which the idea of the Convention originated as well as of the responsibility which rested upon us of giving the best answer in our power to a reference of such supreme importance.

2. Though its function was to draft a Constitution, the Convention was not a Constituent Assembly with a direct ruandate from the people to plan the form of Government under which they desired to live. Still it might well claim a considerable measure of authority for its proceedings. Except for some important political and labour abstentions it has worthily reflected almost every phase and interest and class in the varied life of Ireland. But there has been no sure means of knowing how far it exhibited the mind and will of Ireland at the present time, even as regards the parties officially represented in it, nor any guarantee that its decisions, independently of suggestions made by the Government, would take effect in law. The Sinn Fein organisation stood altogether aloof.

3. Nevertheless, whatever the difficulties might be, we determined to make the most of the unique opportunity that presented itself when Irishmen of opposing parties were for the first time to come together in a large body to discuss in friendship the future government of their country at a great crisis in the world’s history. To co-operate in devising a scheme of National self-government which would satisfy the reasonable aspirations of our fellow-countrymen, and provide adequate safeguards for minorities, was altogether according to our desires. We believed that if a measure giving us full control over our own affairs was agreed to, and given effect to by the Government, the vast majority of Irish Nationalists would accept it and bend their minds to making it a success, and that the good will to the Constitution which had followed self-government in the Dominions would speedily spring up here.

4. Such hopes as were entertained of success in building a worthy edifice from these foundations were strengthened by the preliminary debates of the Convention, which were upon a high level, and showed a real desire for mutual enlightenment and understanding. It looked as if the gravity of the times, the principles of freedom for which the Allied Nations claimed to stand, the widespread desire for a settlement throughout the Dominions and among our American kindred, and the disastrous consequences of further conflict and disunion, might bring about a spontaneous resolve among all the assembled delegates to establish our country as a free and contented nation within the Empire.

5. These expectations have been only in part realised. The Southern Unionist delegates, abandoning a long tradition of opposition to Home Rule,, came forward frankly and fairly to assist in planning a scheme of self-government. We readily acknowledge the patriotism of their action, and we can only regret deeply that on one point, the control of Customs, which we regarded as vital, they could not see eye to eye with us, and thus effect a complete mutual agreement on a Constitution.

6. The Labour delegates also took a very useful part in the deliberations. As a body they were strongly in favour of a measure of self-government for Ireland.

7. On the other hand, the Ulster Unionists, who were in close touch with their supporters in the North, to our great regret did not see their way to give much co-operation in constm.ctive work along the lines which the Convention was following. The objections which they formulated to our proposals would, if given effect to, reduce the Irish Parliament to a low level at the outset. What their view might be in an Irish Parliament is a different matter. Every one of the Dominions contained a minority of citizens accustomed to identify themselves with Imperial interests who predicted a calamity for their country and the whole Empire if self-government were fully conceded. We are confident that the experience of the Convention will tend to remove any such feeling in Ulster; and, in order to make it easy for our esteemed fellow-countrymen to join on fair terms in one Parliament for the whole country, we went so far as to concede them a large measure of additional elected representation in the Irish House of Commons. They would be a powerful and effective element in an Irish Parliament.

8. We realised clearly from the outset that to obtain an agreement upon Home Rule for a United Ireland, and thus fulfil the purpose of the Convention, compromise was necessary. But we also realised that to carry compromise to the point of agreeing to a scheme which, in our judgment, Ireland would not accept from us would be very unwise, apart from our own decided opinions on the right solution of the Irish problem. The truth is, that it is in the control by Irishmen of the machinery of Irish Government rather than in a reduction of the powers of the Irish Parliament that the best field is to be found for a reasonable compromise. This brings us to the recommendations of our Report.

9. The terms of reference given to the Convention contained the single limitation that the Constitution must be within the Empire.

10. Within the Empire and peculiar to it, there is a form of Constitution, enjoyed by all the self-governing Dominions, which has brought peace, contentment and prosperity to those nations, together with an attachment to the Empire which has grown steadily firmer, even after rebellion and open war.
This form of Constitution rests on three main principles—
(1) the Imperial Parliament retains full control over all Imperial affairs, foreign relations, the making of peace and war, the Army and Navy.
(2) The Dominion Parliament is technically a subordinate one, whose Bills must receive the Royal Assent to become valid, and whose Acts may legally be over-ridden by the Imperial Parliament.
(3) Subject to these limitations, the Dominion has unfettered power of national self-government, including full control of all taxation.

11. Ireland is a Nation, and it is upon a like foundation that we believe the Irish Constitution should now be built. There is room for compromise on details, and even on secondary questions of principle, and there is abundant room for compromise of the wisest kind in the form of safeguards for the minorities inside Ireland, without limiting the powers of Ireland as a whole. But we think it essential to abide by the principle that Irish affairs, including all branches of taxation should be under the Irish Parliament.

12. It has often been said in our debates, and outside them, that it would be unsafe for Great Britain to permit ap islarid so near her to have political power resembling in any degree that of the Dominions. As regards national defence, we have allowed a difference to exist; and in the matter of trade there is room for a special arrangement. But, as to the rest, we can only reply that reconciliation between the two countries is made exceedingly difficult unless it can be shown that the British people sincerely believe in liberty for its own sake, and are willing, to apply to Ireland the principle that the supposed military interests of great states shall not over-ride the rights of small nationalities living alongside them. The noble principle of liberty, which has had such a unifying effect in the Dominions during the war now devastating Europe surely cannot lose its virtue when applied to an island near to Great Britain, where mutual interests and intimate commercial relations ought to promise an even closer friendship.

13. While we think, therefore, that any settlement founded on distrust of Ireland will fail in its effect, and that the nearer the Irish Constitution approaches to that of the Dominions the better will be its prospects, we have striven with earnest sincerity to meet the opposition of Unionist minorities in Ireland, and allay their fears with safeguards which do not infringe any vital principle. We take in turn the points where difference has arisen, and the proposals which we make for compromise.


14. The principal point of difference arose on finance. We asked for full powers of taxation. The Ulster representatives wished to reserve all powers of taxation to the Imperial Parliament, and only modified this demand to the extent of allowing to the Irish Parliament some undefined taxing power of its own. The Southern Unionists were prepared to concede direct taxation and Excise to the Irish Parliament, and admitted the reasonableness of Ireland’s claim to separate Customs treatment by proposing an arrangement which, in effect, would place a moral obligation upon the Imperial Parliament of imposing lower Customs duties in Ireland than in Great Britain upon articles of general consumption. They could not see their way to go further and allow the Irish Parliament control over Customs. Ultimately they acquiesced in a proposition from the Government that leaves the control of Customs and Excise to the decision of the Imperial Parliament after the war. In an Irish Parliament we have no doubt that many of them would claim the fiscal autonomy which more than one of them advocated in the earlier stages of the Convention.

15. The taxing power so deeply affects the welfare and prosperity of the people, the dignity of Parliament, and the wise and economical administration of the Government, that no part of it could be placed under external control without perpetuating friction with Great Britain and discontent in Ireland. The control of indirect taxation, which determines the course of trade and in normal times produced seventy per cent, of Irish tax-revenue, is of especial importance. Irish Government cannot be financed without drawing largely on these sources of revenue, nor can an equitable balance between direct and indirect taxation be obtained if two authorities instead of one are controlling them. Moreover, the indirect taxes affect articles of general consumption among the mass of the population, including necessaries of life.

16. Economically, Ireland is, and always has been, different from Great Britain. It is a much poorer country, and a country with few manufacturing industries. It has suffered severely from over-taxation under the Union, and urgently needs a separate fiscal system under Irish control. There is not an instance in the world of an island differing so radically from a powerful neighbouring country being united with it under a common fiscal system.

17. No exception can be made in the case of Customs which, under the present free trade system, comprise the duties on such important articles as sugar, tea, coffee and tobacco. Moreover fiscal systems everywhere are in the melting pot, and there is a likelihood of radical change in the British system. No change could possibly affect Ireland and Great Britain in the same way, and we consider it necessary that Ireland should have the right of guarding her own trade interests and controlling her own trade policy. It may be said with truth that the power of each state within the Empire to control the whole of its own taxation, and especially its Customs, is the very corner-stone of Imperial unity.

18. Federaton is not in view. Even if it were, and Ireland were still intent on retaining control of her Customs, her sea boundary and her distinct national character and economic interests would give her a claim in that respect which no member of a federation anywhere else can advance.

19. It has been said that to give the Irish Government the power of negotiating commercial arrangements with foreign countries will complicate foreign relations and place her in an unwarrantably privileged position. We answer that no such complications arise in the case of the Dominions, and that what we ask for implies, in our own case as in theirs, no diminution of Imperial authority. Any such trade arrangement has to be negotiated through the agency of the Colonial Office, as representing the Imperial Government, in which the treaty-making power alone resides.

20. Another objection was the inconvenience to trade if a Customs barrier were set up and ships were searched for dutiable articles. But the system was in force here until the middle of the last century. It still prevails in trade, not only with America, France, and foreign countries generally, but with the Dominions, the Crown Colonies, and even the Channel Islands. It is, moreover, the only effective means of ascertaining what the true income of Ireland amounts to. The revenue at present attributed to Ireland in respect of tea and other dutiable commodities is official guesswork, founded mainly on the numbers of the population.

21. But the strongest objection made to the control of Customs, an objection urged principally by the Ulster Unionists, was that it might interrupt free trade between Ireland and Great Britain. They stated that the raw materials of Ulster industry were drawn mainly from Great Britain, which was also the market for much of their finished produce, and that close commercial intercourse was therefore essential. But this is true also of Irish agriculture, for whose products, which are perishable, and are exported in normal times to a greater value than the products of all the Ulster industries combined, Great Britain is at the present time the best and practically the only market. It would be folly to offend our best customer.

22. As both countries are so deeply interested in free access to one another’s markets, we believe that mutual advantage would be a surer guarantee of free and friendly intercourse than any legal restrictions. But, in order to meet Unionist fears, we are ready to agree to provisions in the Constitutional Act maintaining free trade between the two countries in articles of home produce, subject to safeguards against dumping, for a reasonable term of years, and thereafter by mutual agreement. This would ensure that if any change became absolutely necessary, owing either to an altered tariff policy in Great Britain, or to any other reason, it could not be made without prolonged deliberation in the Irish Parliament.

23. We desire to recall the fact that in proposing full powers of taxation for Ireland we are not making a new or unsupported claim. The three most eminent financial authorities upon the Financial Relations Commission of 1895—Lord Farrer, Lord Welby, and Mr. Bertram Currie—reported in a powerful reasoned argument, while disclaiming all political prepossessions, that this was the only sound method of solving the question. The Primrose Committee of financial experts, no longer ago than 1911, unanimously and with equal emphasis reported to the same effect, recommending the Irish control of Customs with arrangements for free trade between the two countries. None of the arguments used by these high authorities, after exhaustive investigation, have lost their weight, and some have gained strength.

24. The Act of 1914, which gives Ireland some restricted powers in regard to Customs, contains in Section 26 a distinct guarantee that when Irish revenue had met Irish expenditure for three successive years, the financial arrangements would be revised for the express purpose of increasing the powers of the Irish Parliament over taxation, as well as for settling an Imperial contribution. The condition is now fulfilled. A large balance of revenue over expenditure has been growing for three years, and it can no longer be said that an estimated deficit justifies any curtailment of Irish control over Irish finance.

25. We fully agree that there should be some regular machinery for ensuring close co-operation between Great Britain and Ireland in commercial and postal matters; and we, therefore, propose the establishment of a Joint Advisory Commission with power to make agreements and recommendations on these important matters.


26. A most important financial question is the nature and amount of the contribution to be made by Ireland to Imperial services. The obligation of Ireland to contribute according to her means we accept without question., As to the method, our view is that this is another case where the greatest wisdom would lie in following the Dominion precedent—that is, in making the matter one of voluntary negotiation between the Irish and Imperial Governments, the contribution taking the form of payment for services of an Imperial nature, as by the maintenance of forces for local defence or the provision of ships. Ireland, on her side, would renounce all claim to subsidies or payments of any kind from the British Exchequer. This would make a clean financial settlement. Great Britain would not be exacting what many might regard as tribute. Ireland would wipe out bitter memories of over-taxation and neglect, and face the future not only as a self-reliant country but as a more willing because a more free contributor to the common defence. It must be recognised that if this plan is not adopted and a statutory contribution is to be enforced by law, there is no logical course but to re-open intricate questions of taxable capacity, which will inevitably bring into prominence the over-taxation of Ireland in the past, and will be held to justify claims for compensation.

27. In view of strong Unionist feeling, however, we do not press our views upon the point, and are willing to agree to statutory payment, to be fixed provisionally at the onset and afterwards by agreement between the Imperial and Irish Governments. We only stipulate that the annual expenses of Land Purchase, which must be regarded as an Imperial obligation, though an Irish service, as well as the cost of any defence forces that may be raised and maintained in the future by the Irish Government, shall be set off against the sum so fixed. The same applies, in a large measure, to the Housing scheme. The balance could best be paid in kind by the provision of ships or other war material manufactured in Ireland.


28. Any settlement which prohibited Ireland, as a matter of principle, from providing military forces for her own local defence in the constitutional manner customary in the Dominions would, in our opinion, be unacceptable. The confidence shown by entrusting her with such a power would, we are convinced, be repaid a thousandfold. But here, again, we have felt it our duty to give way to cautious views, and we propose that the power should remain in abeyance for five years, and should then depend on the consent of the Imperial Conference, upon which Ireland should be duly represented.

29. As regards the question of conscription, we are ready to take it for granted that no attempt would be made to apply it to Ireland without the consent of the Irish Parliament. Any attempt to impose conscription upon a nation without its sanction is utterly impolitic and unjust, and is bound to end in disaster.


30. We preferred that this representation should cease until such time as a Parliament is created in which all parts of the Empire or the Realm could be properly and equitably represented. Until that time we believe that every purpose served by representation could be better served by arrangements for regular and systematic conference between the Irish and British Governments in a permanent consultative council. By sending members to the British Parliament at Westminster, after we have obtained a Parliament of our own, we risk incurring the odium of disturbing the balance of English parties and influencing questions on which we are not concerned, without any security that in matters where Ireland is properly concerned her voice will carry its due weight, since in order to avoid too much dislocation it is necessary to reduce her membership far below the number to which her population entitles her. But in view of the great importance attached by Unionists to this representation, we were reluctant to maintain our opposition, and we accordingly agreed to a delegation of 42 Irish members being sent to Westminster by the Irish Parliament. That is the form of representation at Westminster that will least distract Irish attention from the necessary concentration at home, and least divide the views of our members in London from those of the Irish Parliament.


31. All the points we have hitherto dealt with are concerned with the future constitutional relations between Ireland and Great Britain, and the powers to be exercised by the Irish Parliament. In regard to safeguards for minorities in Ireland against any misuse of these powers that they might fear, we have gone to extreme lengths in our anxiety to reach a settlement.

32. That political parties will long continue on existing lines seems most unlikely. But we have agreed that an Irish House of Commons at the outset shall have a Unionist strength of 40 per cent, and that the Upper House shall consist of nominated and ex officio members, of peers elected by their own order, and of other members elected by their own class. The two Houses would sit and vote together on questions in dispute between them, including Money Bills.

33. These arrangements are intended to give to commercial and industrial interests, and to’ Unionist views generally, a powerful voice in the final decision of all legislative questions, including financial measures.

34. We are aware that in agreeing to these arrangements we put a severe strain on the Irish democracy, and hazard the adverse opinion of the outside world. But we take the risk on condition that full powers of self-government, especially full economic and financial powers, are entrusted to the Parliament so constituted. We believe the guarantee offered against the wrongful and imprudent exercise of these powers to be needless. But, provided that Irish questions are left to the decision of the Irish Parliament, we trust our countrymen of North, South, East and West to act loyally and patriotically in the interests of Ireland.

35. The nomination of some Members to the Lower House appears to be the only sure and practicable way of providing adequate minority representation for the Southern Unionists. In the case of the Ulster Unionists, who prefer election, we should be willing to agree to securing larger representation for them by arranging for smaller electoral quotas or for any electoral expedient which would effect the desired result. As regards the Ulster difficulty, we know of no other plan which would not impair the efficiency of Parliament and keep in being religious antagonisms which all good Irishmen desire to see ended.


36. We propose the establishment of fairly constituted Civil Service Commissions to regulate competitive examinations and advise on all patronage and appointments.


37. So far from thinking that the war should further delay the establishment of an Irish Executive and Parliament, we regard a postponement of these measures as a disaster and their prompt passage into law an advantage which no administrative difficulties should be allowed to thwart. We recognise, however, that the abnormal conditions brought about by the war make it difficult to carry out some of the changes required. We do not think these difficulties ought to be magnified. The advantage gained by proofs of a sincere desire to let the Irish people manage their own affairs will far outweigh disturbance of official routine. But, if it is clearly laid down that any reserved power will be operative immediately after the war, a certain almount of postponement is admissible. What we altogether object to is the postponement of vital questions until after the war. Now is the time to decide them in principle. This makes it impossible for us to agree to any suggestions made by the Government during our deliberations to leave the future of Customs and Excise in complete uncertainty.

38. No doubt it might be difficult to transfer the control of these two services during the war, and we therefore consent to their temporary maintenance under Imperial authority. But a Joint Board should be immediately set up to determine the true revenue of Ireland from these taxes, and to allocate their proceeds, as so determined, to the Irish Exchequer.

39. We do not like to contemplate even a temporary reservation of the Police or Post Office. But, to meet the views of others, we have agreed that the Imperial and Irish Governments may jointly arrange for the unified control of either service during the war.


40. It is an important part of any scheme for the settlement of the Irish question that Land Purchase should be completed on terms equitable alike to landlord and tenant; that the administration should be Irish, and that the full cost of Land Purchase, past and future, should be borne by the Irish Government, on the understanding that it be reckoned as part of Ireland’s contribution to Imperial services. Happily, no serious difference of opinion has arisen in the Convention on the proposals framed by the able Committee which dealt with Land Purchase, and we recommend that a measure embodying the scheme outlined in its Report shall be annexed to the Constitutional Act.


41. To sum up, we propose a Constitution conferring powers on Ireland which are strictly consistent with Imperial unity and strictly conform to the limits set by the reference to the Convention.

42. We propose an Irish Parliament with full powers of legislation in all Irish affairs, subject to the religious safeguards contained in Section 3 of the Act of 1914 (the existing disabilities to be removed in the Constitutional Act), and with full powers of taxation, but with no power to make laws on Imperial concerns; the Crown, foreign relations, peace and war, the Army and Navy and other allied matters duly specified.

43. At the same time, we do our utmost to meet the doubts and objections of Unionists by agreeing to the following provisions:—

(1) Generous additional representation in the Irish Parliament.
(2) A guarantee for a reasonable period of Free Trade between Ireland and Great Britain in articles which are the produce or manufacture of either country.
(3) A Joint Advisory Commission to secure co-operation in commercial and postal matters.
(4) Continued representation in the Imperial Parliament in such a way as to reflect the views of the different parties in the Irish Parliament.
(5) A fixed statutory contribution to Imperial expenses.
(6) Independent Civil Service Commissions.
(7) Suspension for a term of years of the power to raise local defence forces.
(8) Suspension till the end of the war of the powers over Customs and Excise, with an arrangement to be made by joint agreement for the control of Police and Post Office by the two Governments for a like period. We also agree to the scheme adopted by the Convention for the speedy completion of Land Purchase, and express our concurrence in the Housing scheme.


44. Such a Constitution would, we believe, meet with the approval of the great majority of the people of Ireland. It would be accepted by our kindred in the United States and Colonies. It is generous to the Irish Unionists, and good for Great Britain as well as for Ireland. Had it been put into operation at the beginning of the war, the World’s history might have been very different in these deciding years. Better late than never.


1. In order to reach an agreement between Unionists and Nationalists, we do not at this moment desire to press our objection to the fiscal proposals contained in the Prime Minister’s letter, as we hold it to be of paramount importance that an Irish Parliament with an Executive responsible thereto should be immediately established, and that, concurrently with the legislation necessary to effect that object, measures should be passed by the Imperial Parliament to provide for the entire completion of Land Purchase and the solution of the Housing Problem.

2. In coming to this decision we are largely moved by the belief that the Government we are helping to establish will be ar effective instrument in obtaining for Ireland by general consent whatever further powers her material interests require; and that the proposal to pay into the Irish Exchequer the full proceeds of Irish taxation, direct and indirect, subject only to an agreed contribution to Imperial expenditure, will give the Irish Government means for internal development, and will prevent the ruinous increase of burdens which would certainly result if Ireland remained liable to the full weight of Imperialtaxation, and jointly responsible forthe Imperial debt.

3. But since the decision upon Ireland’s claim to full fiscal autonomy is only postponed, we, the undersigned, desire to put on record against the time when that decision has to be made, our conviction that, according to all precedents in the British Empire, an Irish Parliament is entitled, and ought to become the sole taxing authority for Ireland, unless and until, in the general interest it sees fit to part with some portion of its financial independence. We hold, however, that in the common interest of both countries there should be a Free Trade agreement between Great Britain and Ireland.

4. We desire to add that we protest most strongly against the suggestion that alternative sittings of the Irish Parliament might be held in some other place than Dublin, and also against the proposal that there should be set up anywhere in Ireland other than in Dublin a complete branch of the Irish administration.*

5. We further hold that, by the Act constituting an Irish Parliament, power should be taken to prevent dumping, and we believe that this could most conveniently be done by prohibiting the export from Great Britain to Ireland, and vice versa, of any article which is being sold under the cost of its production. It should be made a duty of the Joint Exchequer Board to enquire into alleged cases of dumping, and action should originate on a report from them.

* Lord MacDonnell is unable to participate in this paragraph for the following reasons: this matter was never raised or discussed in the Convention, and without the fullest discussion he abstains from expressing an opinion on it; Lord MacDonnell is well aware that the proposal would give rise to vehement opposition in Leinster, Mnnster and Connaught, and probably amongst the Nationalist population of Ulster; it would certainly impose many hardships upon the great majority of the Irish people; and would unquestionably be productive of extreme administrative inconvenience. But so strong is Lord MacDonnel’s desire to meet all reasonable wishes of the Unionists of Ulster that he feels unable to negative the proposal without having before him the Ulster Unionist views upon the point.


1. We desire to make it clear that we have supported the agreement which has been brought about in the Convention between Unionists and Nationalists, because we believe that self-government is in the best interests of the country, and that a measure giving it effect should be passed promptly into law.
2. We recognise that an agreement could not have been brought about without certain temporary concessions made in regard to the Constitution of the Irish Parliament which we, as democrats and representatives of Labour, regard with strong dislike. >But we feel so deeply the necessity of setting up a Parliament in Ireland, in which Labour amongst other interests, may be able to find a place, that we have been willing to subordinate our democratic beliefs to what we conceive to be the highest interests of Ireland.


3. As to the constitution of the Senate we are still totally opposed to the nominated element believing same should be elected on a democratic vote if Labour is to be given a chance to be represented in that body by its own choice. So strongly do we feel on this point that we are prepared to recommend our fellow workmen not to accept nomination to the chamber. 4. As a compromise we are prepared to agree with the nominations as outlined in Head 9, sub-heads (1) to (5).


5. We are of opinion that the elected members of the Irish House of Commons, like the members of the Imperial House of Commons, and of the principal Legislatures in the British Dominions, should receive a salary which we suggest should be at the rate of £400 per annum.


6. We are of opinion that the Representation of the People Act, 1918, should continue to be the law governing the franchise in Ireland.

James Mccabbon. Robert Waugh. Henry T. Whitley. John Murphy. Charles Mckay.


We think it necessary to add to the Report of the Proceedings of the Convention a brief statement of our position, because the Resolution introduced by us on January 2nd, 1918, was, owing to circumstances, not brought to a decision.

1. We desire to record our unaltered conviction that the Legislative Union provides the best system of government for Ireland, but havirg entered the Convention on an appeal from H. M. Government, based on high considerations of Allied and Imperial interests which it was impossible to disregard, we have endeavoured to assist the Convention in devising a Constitution which would meet the aspirations for self-government within the Empire long held by a great majority of the Irish people.

2. We believe that an Irish Parliament can only be established with safety to Imperial interests and security for the minority in Ireland, by the participation of Irishmen of various classes and creeds in the government which is rendered possible by the safeguards agreed with practical unanimity by the Convention and for which no provision was made under the Act of 1914.

3. We regard the following points as vital to any satisfactory settlement, and our action must be subject to these conditions:

(1) That Ireland occupy the same position as other parts of the United Kingdom in any scheme for the Federation of the Empire or the United Kingdom.
(2) That all Imperial questions and services, including the levying of Customs Duties, be left in the hands of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
(3) That Ireland send representatives to Westminster. (4) That the whole of Ireland participate in any Irish Parliament.
(5) That the safeguards in the Report agreed to by the Convention be established.
(6) That an adequate contribution be made by Ireland to Imperial services. Our lamented colleague, Sir Henry Blake, expressed by letter in January last his concurrence with us on the above points


Andrew Jameson.
Edward H. Andrews.
Oranmore And Browne.
John Dublin.
J. B. Powell.
William Goulding.
Geo. F. Stewart.

I desire to associate myself with the above, with the exception of paragraph 1.
(Signed) Dunraven.


25th February, 1918.


I had the privilege of discussing, during the last three weeks, the situation in the Irish Convention with the delegates whom the Convention appointed to confer with the Government. You will allow me to thank the Convention for sending over a delegation so representative of all groups of opinion within the Convention. The Government have thereby been enabled to learn the views of different parties, and to appreciate better than would otherwise have been possible the position that has now been reached within the Convention. I regret that the urgency of questions vital to the immediate conduct of the war has protracted the meetings with various groups longer than it was hoped would be necessary, but I am confident the Convention will recognise the exceptional circumstances of the time and will understand there has been no avoidable delay. The conclusion to which the Government have come as a result of their interviews with the representatives of the Convention may be stated as follows:—

The Government are determined that, so far as is in their power, the labours of the Convention shall not be in vain. On receiving the report of the Convention, the Government will give it immediate attention and will proceed with the least possible delay to submit legislative proposals to Parliament. They wish, however, to emphasise the urgent importance of getting a settlement in and through the Convention. The Convention has been brought together to endeavour to find a settlement by consent. If the Convention fails to secure this, the settlement of the question will be much more difficult, but it will be a task incumbent on the Government. It is, therefore, of the highest importance both for the present situation and for future good relations in and with Ireland that the settlement should come from an Irish assembly, and from mutual agreement among all parties. To secure this there must be concessions on all sides. It has been so in every Convention, from that of the U.S.A. to that of South Africa.

There is, however, a further consideration which has an important bearing on the possibilities of the present situation. During the period of the war it is necessary to proceed as far as possible by agreement. Questions on which there is an acute difference of opinion in Ireland or in Great Britain must be held over for determination after the war. At the same time it is clear to the Government, in view of previous attempts at settlement, and of the deliberations of the Convention itself, that the only hope of agreement lies in a solution which, on the one side, provides for the unity of Ireland under a single Legislature with adequate safeguards for the interests of Ulster and the Southern Unionists, and, on the other, preserves the well-being of the Empire and the fundamental unity of the United Kingdom.

It is evident that there is on the part of all parties in the Convention a willingness to provide for and safeguard the interests of the Empire and of the United Kingdom. A settlement can now be reached which will reserve by common consent to the Imperial Parliament its suzerainty, and its control of Army, Navy, and Foreign Policy and other Imperial services, while providing for Irish representation at Westminster, and for a proper contribution from Ireland to Imperial expenditure. All these matters are now capable of being settled within the Convention on a basis satisfactory both to the Imperial Government and to Ireland.

There remains, however, the difficult question of Customs and Excise. The Government are aware of the serious objections which can be raised against the transfer of these services to an Irish Legislature. It would be ractically impossible to make such a disturbance of the fiscal and financial relations of Great Britain and Ireland in the midst of a great war. It might also be incompatible with that federal re-organisation of the United Kingdom in favour of which there is a growing body of opinion. On the other hand, the Government recognise the strong claim that can be made that an Irish Legislature should have some control over indirect taxation as the only form of taxation which torches the great majority of the people, and which in the past has represented the greater partlof Irish revenue.

The Government feel that this is a matter which cannot be finally settled at the present time. They therefore suggest for the consideration of the Convention that, during the period of the war and for a period of two years thereafter, the control of Customs and Excise should be reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament; that, as soon as possible after the Irish Parliament has been established, a Joint Exchequer Board should be set up to secure the determination of the true revenue of Ireland—a provision which is essential to a system of responsible Irish Government and to the making of a national balance sheet, and that, at the end of the war, a Royal Commission should be established to re-examine impartially and thoroughly the financial relations of Great Britain and Ireland, to report on the contribution of Ireland to Imperial expenditure, and to submit proposals as to the best means of adjusting the economic and fiscal relations of the two countries.

The Government consider that during the period of the war the control of all taxation other than Customs and Excise could be handed over to the Irish Parliament; that, for the period of the war and two years thereafter an agreed proportion of the annual Imperial expenditure should be fixed as the Irish contribution; and that all Irish revenue from Customs and Excise as determined by the Joint Exchequer Board, after deduction of the agreed Irish contribution to Imperial expenditure, should be paid into the Irish Exchequer. For administrative reasons, during the period of the war it is necessary that the Police should remain under Imperial control and it seems to the Government to be desirable that for the same period the Postal service should be a reserved service.

Turning to the other essential element of a settlement—the securing of an agreement to establish a single Legislature for an united Ireland—the Government believe that the Convention has given much thought to the method of overcoming objection on the part of Unionists, North and South, to this proposal. They understand that one scheme provides for additional representation by means of nomination or election. They understand further that it has also been suggested that a safeguard of Ulster interests might be secured by the provision of an Ulster Committee within the Irish Parliament, with power to modify, and if necessary to exclude, the application to Ulster of certain measures either of legislation or administration which are not consonant with the interests of Ulster. This appears to be a workable expedient, whereby special consideration of Ulster conditions can be secured and the objections to a single Legislature for Ireland overcome.

The Government would also point to the fact that it has been proposed that the Irish Parliament should meet in alternate sessions in Dublin and Belfast, and that the principal offices of an Irish Department of manufacturing industry and commerce should be located in Belfast. They believe that the willingness to discuss these suggestions is clear evidence of the desire to consider any expedient which may help to remove the causes of Irish disunion. The fact that, in order to meet the claims of different parts of the community, the South African Convention decided that the Legislature was to be established in Cape Town, the Administrative Departments to be situated in Pretoria, and the Supreme Court was to sit in Bloemfontein, is a proof that proposals such as these may markedly contribute to eventful agreement.

Finally, the Government have noted the very important Report which has been prepared on the subject of Land Purchase and on which an unanimous conclusion has been reached by the Committee of the Convention set up to consider this subject. If this Report commends itself to the Convention, the Government would be prepared to introduce in Parliament as part of the plan of settlement (and simultaneously with the Bill amending the Government of Ireland Act, 1914) a measure for the purpose of enabling Parliament to give effect to the recommendations of the Convention on the subject of Land Purchase. The Government have also had submitted to them by the Labour representatives in the Convention the need of provision for dealing with the urgent question of housing in Ireland, and on receiving recommendations from the Convention on the subject they would be prepared to consider the inclusion in the scheme of settlement of a substantial provision for immediately dealing with this vital problem.

There thus seems to be within the reach of the Convention the possibility of obtaining a settlement which will lay the foundation of a new era in the government both of Ireland and of Great Britain. It is a settlement which will give to Irishmen the control of their own affairs, while preserving the fundamental unity of the United Kingdom, and enabling Irishmen to work for the good of the Empire as well as for the good of Ireland. With all the earnestness in their power the Government appeal to the members of the Convention to agree upon a scheme which can be carried out at once and which will go a long way towards realising the hopes of Irishmen all over the world, without prejudice to the future consideration of questions on which at present agreement cannot be attained in Ireland and which are also intimately connected with constitutional problems affecting every part of the United Kingdom, the consideration of which must be postponed till the end of the present war. This is an opportunity for a settlement by consent that may never recur, and which, if it is allowed to pass, must inevitably entail consequences for which no man can wish to make himself responsible.

Yours sincerely,
D. Lloyd George.


Source: HathiTrust Digital Library

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