United Kingdom position concerning Irish Free State Bills (1933)

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United Kingdom position concerning Irish Free State Bills (1933)  (1933) 
Statement made in the House of Commons on 14 November 1933 by the Secretary for the Dominions (Mr J H Thomas) on proposed new constitutional laws in the the Irish Free State

We are advised that these bills [introduced in the Irish Free State] conflict in important respects with the treaty of 1921, and their passage therefore would involve further repudiation of the obligations entered Into by the Irish Free State under that treaty. We have already made perfectly clear our opinion of action of this kind. Apart fron any question of legality we look upon it as repudiation of an honourable settlement. No modification of the treaty may properly be made except by agreement between the two countries. But the real significance of the bills is that they indicate an intention gradually to eliminate the Crown from the Constitution of the Irish Free State. President de Valera has told us, as I said in the House of Commons on June 17, 1932, that his ultimate aim is to obtain recognition of a united Ireland as a republic, with some form of association with the British Commonwealth in some circumstances, and for some reasons, and with the recognition of the King as head of the association.

Any such proposals would be totally unacceptable to His Majesty's Government [in the United Kingdom]. Our opinion may be clearly stated. The declaration of the Imperial Conference of 1926 concerning the relationship of Great Britain and the Dominions under the Crown must be accepted as a basis of the constitutional position of the Irish Free State within the Empire. That declaration is clearly inconsistent with a state of things under which the Irish Free State would be a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations for some purposes, and not for all and would cease to be united with Great Britain and the Dominions by common allegiance to the Crown. Our conception of membership of the British Commonwealth is something entirely different. The Irish Free State, as a member of that commonwealth, is, as Mr. de Valera himself must have now learned, completely free to order her own affairs. Membership of the Commonwealth confers great advantages which, by her own action, the Irish Free State is tending to lose - privileges of common citizenship, economic advantages in trading with the remainder of the Empire, and opportunity of powerful influence in international affairs in concert with other members of the Commonwealth in the cause of world peace. These privileges entail responsibilities respect for the Crown, loyal observance of engagements, and a spirit of friendship and co-operation with other members of the British Commonwealth. It Is our wish to see the Irish Free State taking her full share as a member of the Commonwealth; not grudgingly, but of her own free will, accepting responsibilities and enjoying privileges. If she renounces one she cannot hope to enjoy the other.

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