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A Policy of Futility: Eamon de Valera’s Anti-Partition Campaign, 1948-1951

Stephen Kelly

Résumés

Cet article propose la première analyse complète de la campagne internationale contre la partition de l’Irlande entreprise par Eamon de Valera de 1948 à 1951. En premier lieu, il examine la propagande que de Valera a mise en œuvre aux États-Unis d’Amérique, en Australie, en Nouvelle-Zélande et en Grande Bretagne dans le but de mettre fin à la partition de l’Irlande. L’article analyse ensuite l’implication de de Valera dans la campagne menée en Irlande. Le propos cherche à démontrer que la propagande anti-partition faite par de Valera tant en Irlande qu’à l’étranger s’est avérée inefficace, voire contre-productive. Au lieu de contribuer à l’accomplissement de l’unité irlandaise, sa campagne n’a fait que renforcer la partition de l’île.

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Notes de la rédaction

A version of this article was presented at the annual Political Studies Association of Ireland Postgraduate Conference, at the Department of Government, University College Cork, on 26 April 2009. The author would like to thank Dr. Michael Kennedy for reading earlier drafts of this article.

Texte intégral

  • 1 See Diarmaid Ferriter, Judging Dev, a Reassessment of the Life and Legacy of Eamon de Valera, Dubli (...)
  • 2 See John Bowman, De Valera and the Ulster Question, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 274-2 (...)
  • 3 The National Archives of Ireland (NAI) opened in 1991. Prior to this almost all governmental record (...)
  • 4 The personal papers of Eamon de Valera (P150) and Frank Aiken (P104), located at the University Col (...)

1In recent years historians have almost completely ignored Eamon de Valera’s 1948 to 1951 world-wide anti-partition propaganda campaign1. This is surprising as a number of accounts from the mid-1980s, in particular those of John Bowman, T. R. Dwyer, Tom Gallagher and David Harkness, did cover certain aspects of de Valera’s anti-partition campaign2. However, these works are now dated; they were too early to avail of important documents released since the early 1990s from the national archives of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom3. In addition their authors did not have access to the personal papers of Eamon de Valera and Frank Aiken4. Using these most recently available sources this article provides the first comprehensive analysis of de Valera’s world-wide anti-partition campaign.

  • 5 Dáil Éireann debate (DE), 24 June 1947. Volume 107, col. 84.
  • 6 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 19/10/1948.
  • 7 Ibid. Irish Times, 7/11/1945 and Irish Press, 9/10/1946.

2Following the conclusion of World War II in 1945 the issue of partition represented a conundrum for de Valera. Due to Ireland’s neutrality, Northern Ireland’s participation in the war effort and the strategic importance of the island in the event of a future war, both Britain and America categorically rejected the prospect of a united Ireland. Propaganda, therefore, became de Valera’s last resort. Having admitted he was unable to offer any immediate solution to partition5, he instead maintained that a Fianna Fáil government represented the best chance, when the circumstances arose, of achieving Irish unity6. At the 1945 and 1946 Fianna Fáil Ard Fheiseanna (conferences) he used his keynote Presidential address to announce that a world-wide anti-partition propaganda campaign would form the basis of Fianna Fáil’s partition policy in the post-war period7.

3Following Fianna Fáil’s relegation to opposition in February 1948 de Valera decided to commence his much anticipated world-wide anti-partition campaign. Never before or after did Fianna Fáil place such importance on the employment of anti-partition propaganda. The premise of this article is that de Valera’s world-wide anti-partition campaign was a policy of futility. His use of propaganda both abroad and in Ireland was a failure. His speeches during his worldwide enterprise reinforced Ulster Unionists’ convictions that a united Ireland was impossible, highlighted the American government’s lack of interest towards ending the partition of Ireland, and confirmed to the British government that Irish unity was unattainable without the support of the majority of citizens within Northern Ireland.

Dev’s tour stage 1: from New York to New Delhi, March – June 1948

  • 8 Unpublished biography of Eamon de Valera. National Library of Ireland (NLI) Frank Gallagher papers (...)

4In March 1948 de Valera commenced the first stage of his anti-partition tour. He spent the following four months travelling almost 50,000 miles, visiting the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and India. The first stop was the country of his birth, America. He arrived in New York on 4 March 1948. It was almost twenty years since de Valera last visited America. Accompanied by his loyal lieutenant Frank Aiken, the Irish delegation was greeted with an enthusiastic welcome from Irish-Americans. Frank Gallagher, director of the Government Information Bureau from 1939 to 1948, recalled that a parade through New York’s main thorough-fares, in honour of de Valera, was the biggest seen since the end of World War II8. De Valera travelled 10,000 miles over three weeks, visiting Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Oklahoma, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

  • 9 See comments by de Valera, Irish Press, 26/10/1948.
  • 10 Ibid., New York, 3 April 1948. Maurice Moynihan, Speeches and Statements by Eamon De Valera 1917-19 (...)
  • 11 Ibid., 13 April 1948 (UCDA P150/2947).

5De Valera’s speeches in America had two dominant themes: that the partition of Ireland was illegal, and that the British government should make a declaration in support of Irish unity. That Ireland was illegally divided constituted the main argument in most of de Valera’s anti-partition speeches while in America. In every city, town and village he visited he spoke of the crime of a divided Ireland and against the illegality of the “Partition Act” of 19209. He routinely declared that Northern Ireland was “not a historic entity10” and instead exclaimed that partition had divided “the ancient nation of Ireland11”.

  • 12 Under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act (1920), a six county Northern Ireland parliament w (...)
  • 13 Michael Laffan, The Partition of Ireland 1911-1925, Dundalk, Dundalgan Press, 1983, p. 123. See als (...)
  • 14 See comments by de Valera, Irish Press, 26/10/1948.

6His visit to America in 1948 was the ideal opportunity to propagate the anti-partitionist orthodoxy that laid claim to Northern Ireland as the stolen and sundered “Six Counties”. From the inception of the Northern Ireland state, following the British government’s passing of the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, Irish nationalists had refused to accept the formal partition of Ireland into two separate political jurisdictions12. For the majority of nationalists, in both parts of Ireland, the right to rule of the Northern Ireland government was illegitimate. The Act was denounced as an “illegal Act” – forced upon the Irish by their British superiors13. De Valera repeatedly pronounced that no one in Ireland, including the unionist population, had voted for what they termed the “Partition Act14”.

  • 15 Ibid. DE, 24 June 1947. Volume 107, col. 84.
  • 16 Ibid., Los Angeles. Irish Press, 18/3/1948.
  • 17 Ibid., San Francisco. Irish Press, 17/3/1948.

7That the British government should make a declaration in support of Irish unity was based on de Valera’s assumption that because Britain had imposed partition it had a responsibility to find an ultimate solution to the “Irish question15”. In America he demanded that Britain face its “moral obligations” and help end partition16. Speaking in San Francisco he was unequivocal: Ireland had been “mutilated” by the British government creating a situation where partition was the “outstanding cause of quarrel” between Britain and Ireland17.

8Although during the late 1930s de Valera did receive a sympathetic hearing from the Neville Chamberlain government of his request for a declaration in support for Irish unity, by the conclusion of World War II the situation had changed drastically. Given Irish neutrality the British government maintained that Irish unity was an unattainable short-term objective as Northern Ireland’s war-time efforts and the strategic importance of the region in the context of a further war meant that the British would not agree to end partition.

  • 18 Kate O’Malley, Ireland, India and Empire, Indo-Irish Radical Connections, 1919-1964, Manchester, Ma (...)
  • 19 Lord Innverchapel to Bevin, 16 April 1948 (NAUK Dominions Office (DO) 35/3938).
  • 20 Troy D. Davis, Dublin’s America Policy, Irish American Diplomatic Relations 1945-1952, Washington (...)

9Politically, de Valera’s American speeches were a failure. The Dominions Office in London, which kept a file on de Valera’s trip to America, reported that “Mr de Valera’s United States tour had little effect in influencing general United States opinion on the Irish partition issue18”. The Commonwealth Office recorded on de Valera’s American tour that “Irish politics seemed to have ceased to be an issue of the moment to the mass of Americans19”. A show of sympathy, much less a show of support, was not possible for the American government considering Irish neutrality and the post war “special relationship” between America and Britain. Indeed, following the conclusion of the war in the State Department’s view it was better to let the partition dog slumber20.

  • 21 Seán Cronin, Washington’s Irish Policy 1916-1986, Dublin, Anvil Books, 1987, p. 193.
  • 22 This was the opinion of Ernest A. Gross, American assistant secretary of the State Department. Gros (...)

10De Valera was aware that the American government had no interest for his anti-partition propaganda campaign, or indeed Dublin’s calls for Irish unity. During a brief interview with American president Harry S. Truman, de Valera did not mention partition21. Despite this he failed to recognise that his anti-partition propaganda campaign bolstered the State Department’s opinion that the question of Irish reunification was a concern for the Dublin and London governments and thus was “not a problem in which the United States might properly concern itself22”.

  • 23 Irish Press, 1/5/1948.

11From America, in late April 1948, de Valera commenced the next leg of his anti-partition journey, where over several weeks he visited Australia and New Zealand. On the invitation of Rev. Daniel Mannix, Archbishop of Melbourne and former President of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, de Valera arrived in Sydney on 28 April. From Australia, on 24 May, de Valera travelled to New Zealand, where he had a two hour meeting, in Wellington, with the New Zealand prime minister, Peter Fraser23.

  • 24 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 1/5/1948.
  • 25 Ibid. The Sun, 4/5/1948.
  • 26 Ibid. Auckland Star, 25/5/1948.

12During his stay in the Southern hemisphere de Valera’s speeches were once more characteristically based on stressing the “cruel injustice of partition24”. Speaking in Melbourne, Australia, to a gathering of approximately 20,000 people, he said partition was “deeply resented by his people” and its continued existence was a “grievous wound25”. In Auckland, New Zealand, Ireland’s troubled relationship with Britain was a central theme of de Valera’s speeches. The “only outstanding question between Britain and Éire”, he said, was that of partition26.

  • 27 De Valera to his personal secretary, Kathleen O’Connell, 14 May 1948 (UCDA P155/75).
  • 28 Kiernan to unknown recipient in the Department of Foreign Affairs, autumn/winter, 1948 (NAI DFA 305 (...)
  • 29 Duffy to secretary of Commonwealth and Relations Office, Philip Noel-Baker, 1 June 1948 (NAUK DO 35 (...)
  • 30 Barrett to A. T. Dryer, Sydney Australia, 9 April 1951(NAI DFA 305/14/21).

13De Valera’s campaign in the Southern hemisphere was a flop. Although he reported to Dublin that he received an enthusiastic reception, he did concede that there were not many Irish of first generation in either Australia or New Zealand27. The reality was that the anti-partition propaganda campaign was not well received by the majority of either Australians or New Zealanders. Irish minister plenipotentiary to Australia Thomas J. Kiernan reported that the Australian people seemed little interested in de Valera’s tour28. The high commissioner for the United Kingdom in New Zealand, Patrick Duffy, explained that de Valera’s visit had caused Fraser “some embarrassment29”. Kathleen Barrett, an Irish descendent from Wellington, New Zealand, wrote that the subject of partition was “anathema in this country30”.

  • 31 Williams to Sir E. Machtig, 11 June 1948 (NAUK DO 35/3929).
  • 32 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 15/6/1948.

14The main issue of contention for many of the Australia and New Zealand population was Ireland’s decision to remain neutral during World War II. According to reports from British officials in Australia, de Valera’s visit “provided evidence of little sympathy for Éire’s attitude during the war31”. On several occasions de Valera was forced to defend Ireland’s policy of neutrality. He reminded his audiences that “until Ireland had complete independence, it would be strange to ask her to join a crusade to gain independence for other countries32”. His arguments, however, were not sympathetically received by his hosts. This was not unexpected considering that over 1 million Australians and approximately 200,000 New Zealanders had fought under the flag of the Commonwealth during World War II.

  • 33 Record of de Valera’s visit to India, 14 June 1948 (UCDA P150/2955).

15From Australia de Valera and Aiken arrived at the next destination of their anti-partition propaganda campaign, Calcutta, India, on 14 June 1948. Unlike the lukewarm reception which de Valera had received from the America, Australia and New Zealand governments, his arrival was warmly welcomed by the Indian government. On their first night in Calcutta de Valera and Aiken dined with the governor of Bengal, Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari. The following day the Irish delegation travelled to Delhi were they lunched with the governor general of India, Lord Mountbatten. This was followed later in the day with a meeting with Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru33.

  • 34 Nehru to de Valera, 18 June 1948 (UCDA P150/2955). Nehru devoted several chapters of his book to de (...)
  • 35 Nicholas Mansergh, The Prelude to Partition: Concepts and Aims in Ireland and India, Cambridge, Cam (...)

16Privately, Nehru expressed his deep sympathy for the anti-partition cause in Ireland and noted that he saw Ireland as an ally to India in her quest for independence from Britain34. There were marked similarities between the partitioning of Ireland and India as both countries had been within the British Imperial system and in each case partition took place coincidentally in time with a transfer of power, although limited in the Irish case, to indigenous authorities35.

  • 36 Jmcf [sic] to Rumbold, 28 May 1948 (NAUK DO 35/3930).

17De Valera’s time in India again exposed the limitations of the anti-partition propaganda campaign. A British official noted that de Valera’s stay in India, given the lack of an Irish audience, “would deprive Mr de Valera of any field for anti-partition propaganda36”. One must acknowledge that de Valera was, first and foremost, a politician and thus his anti-partition campaign abroad was predominantly for home consumption in Ireland, and not necessarily intended to offer any immediate solution to partition.

18Nevertheless, even if an anti-partition propaganda campaign was the best way to practice his trade while in opposition, his methods merely confirmed that he was unable to deal with the political reality: Irish unity was unattainable in the medium-term. His time abroad showed his inability to foster a new approach to partition. His placing of the blame for partition on the shoulders of the British government, and his continued portrayal of Ireland as a wounded victim showed him to be politically sterile on the issue of Irish unity. This approach was, after all, a reiteration of his partition policy since the early 1920s.

Dev’s tour stage 2: Ireland and Britain, October 1948-March 1949

  • 37 Record of de Valera’s visit to Britain, Oct. 1948 – Feb. 1949 (UCDA P150/2968).

19In October 1948, accepting an invitation from the Anti-Partition of Ireland League of Great Britain, de Valera commenced the second stage of his anti-partition propaganda campaign. From October 1948 to February 1949 de Valera travelled to Britain where he visited a series of centres of the Irish diaspora. He opened his campaign at a monster meeting in Liverpool, and over the subsequent weeks attended similar anti-partition rallies in Glasgow, Cardiff, Cambridge and Manchester. After a break for Christmas, in February 1949, he travelled to Birmingham, Newcastle, London and Sheffield37.

  • 38 Ireland’s Right to Unity, Dublin, Irish Government publication, 1950, p. 9.
  • 39 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 26/10/1948.
  • 40 Ibid. Daily Mirror, 31/1/1949.
  • 41 Arthur H. Johnson, the Grange, Flore, Northampton, to the Northern Ireland government, 10 March 194 (...)

20De Valera’s speeches on partition throughout his time in Britain were as much about confirming as about converting opinions. The perception of Northern Ireland as a British garrison helped to reinforce de Valera’s argument that Ireland was illegally divided. He spoke of the presence of a military force stationed in Northern Ireland holding down the Catholic minority. Routinely he explained that Britain held the border with “a chain of customs posts and customs officials38”. He demanded: “stop coercing Ulster39”. In Birmingham he claimed that Northern Ireland was controlled by “13,000 armed agents of the Orange Gestapo, under the guise of Special Constables40”. Arthur H. Johnson, a concerned Ulster Unionist sympathiser from Northampton, a large market town in the East Midlands of England, informed the Stormont government that “this fellow de Valera is on the war path in Northampton41”.

  • 42 From the available records it is apparent that the Northern Ireland government kept at least one fi (...)
  • 43 Ulster Office, London to Adams, Stormont Castle, Belfast (undated) (See PRONI Cab 9B/201/5).
  • 44 Memorandum by Sinclair ‘Mr. de Valera’s proposed tour: possibilities of counter-publicity’, (undate (...)

21The Belfast government, which kept a file on de Valera’s anti-partition activities in Great Britain, sought to counteract any possible publicity that de Valera would secure during his anti-partition campaign42. The Stormont authorities had received reports from the Ulster Office in London that de Valera was making embarrassing speeches during his tour of Britain43. Under the authority of Northern Ireland minister for finance, John Maynard Sinclair, it was decided that “Ulster’s war effort” and the “fact that the vast majority of our own people desire to remain in the UK” would constitute the central message of Ulster Unionists’ counter-publicity campaign44.

22If de Valera’s trip to America had not been a success in propaganda terms, his campaign in Britain was doubly difficult. Hugh Delargy, British Labour politician and chairman of the Anti-Partition of Ireland League of Great Britain, had been present at most of the major meetings in Britain when de Valera spoke. Although he recalled that they were “enormous and enthusiastic meetings […], in the biggest cities”, in retrospect, he believed that

  • 45 Bowman, De Valera, p. 274-275.

they were all flops. They were not political meetings at all. They were tribal rallies: tribesmen met to greet the Old Chieftain. The melodies of 1916 were played. A few IRA veterans, with their Black and Tan medals, formed guards of honour. Sympathetic Englishmen who attended went away bewildered45.

  • 46 Dulanty to Frederick Boland, 19 Feb. 1949 (NAI DFA 305/14/108).
  • 47 Report from Chief Constable, Lancashire to the Inspector General Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), ( (...)
  • 48 See file ‘Frank Gallagher’, marked ‘suppressed’ (date unknown) (UCDA Desmond Ryan Papers LA10/D/207 (...)

23The Irish high commissioner in London, John W. Dulanty, informed officials in Dublin that de Valera’s visit to Britain had not been altogether successful. Dulanty explained that although 7,000 people attended a rally in Liverpool, with many of them paying as much as twelve shillings to attend, their early enthusiasm quickly waned because of de Valera’s “indulging in a lengthy statistical survey46”. Secret intelligence reports from the Chief Constable, Lancashire, unenthusiastically reported that “mostly Irish people attended” de Valera’s meetings, which were “boring47”. The most common criticism aimed at de Valera was that he was preaching his anti-partition message to the converted. Indeed, Desmond Ryan, who had fought alongside de Valera during the 1916 Rising, wrote that the anti-partition campaign only seemed to “shout with the converted48”.

Total propaganda: the All Party Anti-Partition Committee

  • 49 For further information on the Inter-Party Government’s decision to repeal the External Relations A (...)

24Taoiseach John A. Costello’s announcement in September 1948 of his intention to repeal the External Relations Act of 1936 and in its place declare Ireland a Republic was the first step by the Inter-Party Government to erode Fianna Fáil’s perceived monopoly over the partition issue49. The dust had hardly settled surrounding the repeal of the External Relations Act when the Inter-Party Government, under the new minister for external affairs, Seán MacBride, opened up a second front in its attempts to wrestle away from Fianna Fáil control of partition policy.

  • 50 Memorandum issued on behalf of Seán MacBride, 29 April 1948 (NAI DT S 9361A).

25On entering government MacBride had become anxious that the partition issue was being used for party purposes as a result of de Valera’s anti-partition propaganda campaign50. Thus, in April 1948, he made the decision that partition policy would be taken out of the hands of the government and handed over nominally to the newly formed All-Party Anti-Partition Committee. The Committee consisted of the four major political parties, Fine Gael, Labour, Clann na Poblachta and Fianna Fáil. In forming the committee MacBride hoped that Fianna Fáil would no longer be able to exploit the freedom of opposition to embarrass the government on its partition policy; simply put, if all parties sat under the auspices of a partition committee, the chance to exploit government mistakes and make political capital from them was limited.

26An unsigned and undated directive outlined the purpose of the Committee. It read:

  • 51 See UCDA P104/4668.

The task of the committee should be primarily to assist in the creation of public opinion favourable to the unification of the country, in Ireland, Britain, in the United States, Australia and in such other parts of the world as may, from time to time, be expedient51.

  • 52 Meeting of the All-Party Anti-Partition Committee, Jan. 1949 (UCDA P104/8630).
  • 53 Irish Press, 28/1/1949.

27The inaugural gathering of the Committee occurred in late January 1949. In attendance at the Mansion House in Dublin were Costello, MacBride, William Norton, Tánaiste and minister for Social welfare, de Valera and Aiken52. The first public initiative of the Committee was for the organisation of a campaign fund outside local churches, in support of Northern Nationalist anti-partitionist candidates in the Northern Ireland general election set for 10 February 1949. Northern Ireland Prime Minister Sir Basil Brooke announced that “partition was to the main issue” of the general election53. Cross-border tensions had grown since de Valera’s anti-partition propaganda campaign to America and Britain – he had overplayed his hand in his relationship with the Ulster Unionists. His tour of America had annoyed Stormont immensely, resulting in a return of megaphone diplomacy between Dublin and Belfast.

  • 54 Irish Independent, 4/2/1949.
  • 55 Donal Barrington, Uniting Ireland, Tuairim Pamphlet, Dublin, Sealy, Bryers and Walker, 1957, p. 9.

28By early February 1949, the fundraising campaign for Northern Nationalist candidates had collected over £42,00054. The financial success of the campaign was not matched in the election itself, as Northern Nationalists performed poorly at the polls. The net result of southern politicians’ interference in the Northern Ireland election was disastrous and merely seemed to contribute to the Ulster Unionist Party achieving one of its greatest victories in its history; the Northern Ireland Labour Party was all but wiped out at the polls and after its defeat decided to publicly declare its support for partition, while reactionaries regained the ascendancy within the Ulster Unionist Party55.

  • 56 Copy of the Rev. J. G. MacManaway’s leaflet, Partition, Why Not? (Place of publication unknown). Is (...)

29De Valera’s involvement, although it may be argued reluctantly, with the All-Party Anti-Partition Committee, further underlined his lack of vision on partition. On the one hand de Valera had appealed for a relationship based on goodwill with the Northern Ireland majority, who he hoped would convert 300,000 unionists to agree to a united Ireland. On the other hand his anti-partition propaganda campaign sought to expose the “evils of partition” and reveal the extent to which the Ulster Unionist regime discriminated against Northern Ireland Catholics. In his 1948 leaflet Partition, Why Not? Rev. J. G. MacManaway embodied Ulster Unionists’ revulsion of de Valera. Not only had de Valera’s “anti-British attitude and actions alienated the Ulster people”, but, according to MacManaway, de Valera’s policy of neutrality and insistence on the use of the Gaelic language in schools and government made cordial relations impossible between Dublin and Belfast56.

“You have carved up our country57”: de Valera and the Ireland Act

  • 57 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 4/5/1949.
  • 58 London’s wish to introduce the Act was built on two salient points; the first was in direct respons (...)

30By the summer of 1949, de Valera’s anti-partition propaganda campaign took on a new level of intensity – it was a change in direction that de Valera had been unprepared for. The catalyst was the British government’s decision to introduce an Act to safeguard the constitutional position of the Northern Ireland government within the United Kingdom58.

31On 3 May 1949 the British government formally announced, under the title, “The Ireland Act”:

  • 59 Irish Press, 4/5/1949.

That Northern Ireland remains part of His Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom … that in no event will Northern Ireland […] cease to be part of His Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the parliament of Northern Ireland59.

32Whitehall’s decision to introduce the Ireland Act initiated a crisis in Anglo-Irish relations that had both immediate consequences for de Valera’s anti-partition propaganda campaign, and ultimately long lasting significance for Irish nationalists’ hopes for Irish unity. Significantly the introduction of the Act forced de Valera to acknowledge that his use of propaganda to help end partition had proved futile. Not since the introduction of the Government of Ireland Act in 1920 had partition been so resolutely confirmed. From this moment onwards he was forced to concede that the ending of partition was a long-term aspiration rather than a medium-term objective.

  • 60 See comments by de Valera, Ennis Co. Clare. Irish Press, 9/5/1949.
  • 61 Ibid.

33De Valera was in London at the time of the declaration and the statement seemed to perturb him immensely. He felt that the Act was further evidence of the poisoning effect of partition on Anglo-Irish relations. His anti-partition propaganda speeches took on a new level of intensity not before seen during his propaganda campaign. He believed that the British had embarked on a “mad course” and instead of cementing good relations with Ireland they had chosen to “blow them up60”. He found it “hard to believe” and wrote that “it makes one desperate61”.

  • 62 Memorandum entitled ‘Ireland Bill Defence of Northern Ireland’, (undated) (University of Birmingham (...)
  • 63 Memorandum entitled ‘Secret Ireland Bill – Partition Question’, (undated) (UOBL Attlee Papers MS. D (...)

34Privately, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee explained that because of Irish “aggression” in the context of Dublin’s anti-partition campaign and the Republic of Ireland Act, he was fully prepared “to make it clear” that the British government condemned Ireland’s interference in Northern Ireland affairs62. Attlee was personally extremely unhappy because of de Valera’s “intensified” anti-partition campaign, which the prime minister wrote had embittered Dublin’s relations with London and Belfast63.

  • 64 See record of de Valera’s speeches. Irish Press, 26/1/1950, 27/1/1950 and 3/2/1950.
  • 65 Record of de Valera’s anti-partition world tour; section III, July 1948-April 1951(UCDA P150/2996-2 (...)
  • 66 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 26/6/1950.

35London’s decision to introduce the Act deeply depressed de Valera and made him question the validity of his anti-partition propaganda campaign. Instead of encouraging and nurturing support for ending partition, his campaign exposed the inability of Irish nationalists to influence British policy on partition. Thus, in early 1950, he abandoned his anti-partition propaganda campaign. On visits to Birmingham, Cardiff and Newry in the early months of 1950, de Valera did not speak of partition64. Similarly during visits to France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Israel, in April 1950, once again he decided not to mention partition in any of his speeches65. In Ireland he was likewise reluctant to continue his anti-partition mission; at Bruree Co. Limerick, in June 1950, in front of a crowd of over 10,000 people, de Valera spoke predominantly on the need “to work for the [Irish] language”, while partition was ignored66.

  • 67 Ibid. Irish Press, 16/3/1951.
  • 68 See record of de Valera’s speeches and comments in the Irish Press for May 1951.

36In London, in March 1951, in response to a question concerning a quick end to partition, de Valera’s sense of melancholy was vividly apparent: “you can always say that a thing that will happen is nearer to happening to-day than it was yesterday67.” The Irish general election of May 1951 gave minimal attention to partition; instead the traditional election policies, the economy, social problems, emigration and Church-State relations dominated the campaign. De Valera was noticeably silent on the issue and rarely discussed partition during the campaign68. Gone were the hostile soundbites of previous years. Propaganda had been tried but had failed – paradoxically, this tactic had merely helped to entrench partition rather than help remove it.

Conclusion

  • 69 Aldous Huxley quoted in David Welch, The Third Reich, Politics and Propaganda, London, Routledge, 2 (...)

37De Valera’s use of propaganda as a tool to preach the injustice of partition was a policy of futility. As Aldous Huxley poetically noted, “the propagandist is a man who canalises an already existing stream. In a land where there is no water, he digs in vain69”. De Valera was digging in vain. Perhaps he realised this as he never again embarked on an international anti-partition tour. He had learned a valuable lesson that propaganda only offered superficial success. His international campaign showed that the global community cared little about the partition of Ireland and Irish unity.

38The extent to which de Valera’s campaign alienated Ulster Unionists was significant. His unrelenting verbal assault against Ulster Unionists was a poisonous feature of his campaign and merely helped propagate the notion that unionism and Irishness were incompatible – that there could only be one or the other. Such actions revealed the naiveté of de Valera’s approach to partition – he ridiculed those whom he admitted he required to achieve Irish unity.

39De Valera’s involvement with the anti-partition propaganda campaign in Ireland showed how unable he was to develop a new approach to tackle partition. He relied on outdated methods and philosophies. The All-Party Anti-Partition Committee’s financial support of Northern Nationalist anti-partitionist candidates in the 1949 Northern Ireland general election was a political disaster that merely strengthened the hand of Ulster Unionists.

  • 70 Record of conversation between de Valera, Aiken and Lord Pakenham in Dublin, 2 May 1952 (UCDA P104/ (...)

40By early 1950, de Valera terminated his anti-partition campaign. He had by then realised that to expose the “injustice” of partition had merely exposed the inability of Irish nationalists to secure Irish unity. Privately, de Valera admitted that “a more realistic attitude” to the partition question was now needed70. Upon Fianna Fáil’s return to government in May 1951, de Valera began to dismantle the anti-partition apparatus abroad and in Ireland.

  • 71 Seán McNally, secretary of the Irish Anti-Partition League Belfast to Aiken, 17 June 1952 (UCDA P10 (...)
  • 72 Record of 39th-46th meetings of the All-Party Anti-Partition Committee, 28 Sept. 1951-26 Oct. 1971 (...)

41By the summer of 1951, he ordered that the Irish government cease to financially support the Irish Anti-Partition League in Northern Ireland and the Anti-Partition of Ireland League of Great Britain. He believed that both movements had no practical value because partition policy was the responsibility of the government and not of external lobby groups71. He likewise relinquished any meaningful association with the All-Party Anti-Partition Committee72.

  • 73 Record of secret conversation between Boland and Pakenham, 29 Nov. 1951 (NAI DFA P203/1).
  • 74 Article by Blythe, Towards a Six-Counties Dominion, Dublin, unpublished, 1949 (UCDA P24/1769).

42In government from 1951 to 1954 and from 1957 to 1959, during his final years in active politics, de Valera abandoned a propaganda-based anti-partition policy and replaced it with a policy of “persuasion” that sought to foster cross-border co-operation between Dublin and Belfast73. He was never again to advocate a policy of propaganda to help bring an end to partition. The ‘sore thumb’ approach of stressing the “crime” of a partitioned Ireland had run its course. Ernest Blythe eloquently appraised the futility of de Valera’s anti-partition propaganda campaign: “Our speeches and articles about the injustice of partition […] must be likened to the shooting off of good ammunition at the smoke-trail of a ship which has passed by and is long out of range74”.

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Notes

1 See Diarmaid Ferriter, Judging Dev, a Reassessment of the Life and Legacy of Eamon de Valera, Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, 2007; Dermot Keogh and Gabriel Doherty (eds.), De Valera’s Ireland, Cork, Mercier Press, 2003; Pauric Travers, Eamon de Valera, Life and Times, Dundalk, Dundalgan Press, 1994; T. R. Dwyer, Eamon de Valera, Dublin, Poolbeg Press, 1991; and John P. O’Carroll and John A. Murphy (eds.), De Valera and His Times, Cork, Cork University Press, 1986.

2 See John Bowman, De Valera and the Ulster Question, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 274-275; T. R. Dwyer, “Eamon de Valera and the partition question”, O’Carroll and Murphy (eds.), De Valera and His Times, p. 74-91: p. 87; and lastly, Tom Gallagher, “Fianna Fáil and partition, 1926-84”, Éire – Ireland, vol. 20, No. 1, 1985, p. 28-57.

3 The National Archives of Ireland (NAI) opened in 1991. Prior to this almost all governmental records were closed to the public; only those of the Department of the Taoiseach (DT) were available to researchers. A large volume of archival material dealing with partition in the files of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was not available to researchers until 1991. Archival material relating to this article from the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and from the National Archives of the United Kingdom (NAUK) did not become available to the public until the early 1990s.

4 The personal papers of Eamon de Valera (P150) and Frank Aiken (P104), located at the University College Dublin Archives (UCDA), did not become available to the public until 2003 and 1999, respectively.

5 Dáil Éireann debate (DE), 24 June 1947. Volume 107, col. 84.

6 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 19/10/1948.

7 Ibid. Irish Times, 7/11/1945 and Irish Press, 9/10/1946.

8 Unpublished biography of Eamon de Valera. National Library of Ireland (NLI) Frank Gallagher papers MS 18375 (2).

9 See comments by de Valera, Irish Press, 26/10/1948.

10 Ibid., New York, 3 April 1948. Maurice Moynihan, Speeches and Statements by Eamon De Valera 1917-1973, Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 1980, p. 497-505.

11 Ibid., 13 April 1948 (UCDA P150/2947).

12 Under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act (1920), a six county Northern Ireland parliament with powers of limited self-government was established. Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 the twenty six-counties of southern Ireland formed the Irish Free State.

13 Michael Laffan, The Partition of Ireland 1911-1925, Dundalk, Dundalgan Press, 1983, p. 123. See also Clare O’Halloran, Partition and the Limits of Irish Nationalism, Dublin, Humanities Press International, 1987, p. 93-130.

14 See comments by de Valera, Irish Press, 26/10/1948.

15 Ibid. DE, 24 June 1947. Volume 107, col. 84.

16 Ibid., Los Angeles. Irish Press, 18/3/1948.

17 Ibid., San Francisco. Irish Press, 17/3/1948.

18 Kate O’Malley, Ireland, India and Empire, Indo-Irish Radical Connections, 1919-1964, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2008, p. 159.

19 Lord Innverchapel to Bevin, 16 April 1948 (NAUK Dominions Office (DO) 35/3938).

20 Troy D. Davis, Dublin’s America Policy, Irish American Diplomatic Relations 1945-1952, Washington D.C, Catholic University of America Press, 1998, p. 35-36.

21 Seán Cronin, Washington’s Irish Policy 1916-1986, Dublin, Anvil Books, 1987, p. 193.

22 This was the opinion of Ernest A. Gross, American assistant secretary of the State Department. Gross to Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., 11 Aug. 1949 (UCDA P104/4564).

23 Irish Press, 1/5/1948.

24 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 1/5/1948.

25 Ibid. The Sun, 4/5/1948.

26 Ibid. Auckland Star, 25/5/1948.

27 De Valera to his personal secretary, Kathleen O’Connell, 14 May 1948 (UCDA P155/75).

28 Kiernan to unknown recipient in the Department of Foreign Affairs, autumn/winter, 1948 (NAI DFA 305/14/21).

29 Duffy to secretary of Commonwealth and Relations Office, Philip Noel-Baker, 1 June 1948 (NAUK DO 35/3931).

30 Barrett to A. T. Dryer, Sydney Australia, 9 April 1951(NAI DFA 305/14/21).

31 Williams to Sir E. Machtig, 11 June 1948 (NAUK DO 35/3929).

32 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 15/6/1948.

33 Record of de Valera’s visit to India, 14 June 1948 (UCDA P150/2955).

34 Nehru to de Valera, 18 June 1948 (UCDA P150/2955). Nehru devoted several chapters of his book to de Valera and Ireland’s fight for independence. See Jawaharlal Nehru, Glimpses of World History, New York, Asia Publishing House, 1934.

35 Nicholas Mansergh, The Prelude to Partition: Concepts and Aims in Ireland and India, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1976, p. 5-6.

36 Jmcf [sic] to Rumbold, 28 May 1948 (NAUK DO 35/3930).

37 Record of de Valera’s visit to Britain, Oct. 1948 – Feb. 1949 (UCDA P150/2968).

38 Ireland’s Right to Unity, Dublin, Irish Government publication, 1950, p. 9.

39 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 26/10/1948.

40 Ibid. Daily Mirror, 31/1/1949.

41 Arthur H. Johnson, the Grange, Flore, Northampton, to the Northern Ireland government, 10 March 1949 (PRONI) Cabinet File (Cab) 9B/201/5).

42 From the available records it is apparent that the Northern Ireland government kept at least one file on de Valera’s anti-partition campaign in Great Britain (PRONI Cab 9B/201/5, Northern Ireland file re: ‘Anti-Partition Campaign’, 1948).

43 Ulster Office, London to Adams, Stormont Castle, Belfast (undated) (See PRONI Cab 9B/201/5).

44 Memorandum by Sinclair ‘Mr. de Valera’s proposed tour: possibilities of counter-publicity’, (undated) (PRONI Cab 9B/201/5).

45 Bowman, De Valera, p. 274-275.

46 Dulanty to Frederick Boland, 19 Feb. 1949 (NAI DFA 305/14/108).

47 Report from Chief Constable, Lancashire to the Inspector General Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), (undated) (NAUK Security Service Files (K.V.) 2/515).

48 See file ‘Frank Gallagher’, marked ‘suppressed’ (date unknown) (UCDA Desmond Ryan Papers LA10/D/207).

49 For further information on the Inter-Party Government’s decision to repeal the External Relations Act see Ian McCabe, “John Costello ‘announces’ the repeal of the External Relations Act”, Irish Studies in International Affairs, vol. 3 no. 4, 1992, p. 67-77.

50 Memorandum issued on behalf of Seán MacBride, 29 April 1948 (NAI DT S 9361A).

51 See UCDA P104/4668.

52 Meeting of the All-Party Anti-Partition Committee, Jan. 1949 (UCDA P104/8630).

53 Irish Press, 28/1/1949.

54 Irish Independent, 4/2/1949.

55 Donal Barrington, Uniting Ireland, Tuairim Pamphlet, Dublin, Sealy, Bryers and Walker, 1957, p. 9.

56 Copy of the Rev. J. G. MacManaway’s leaflet, Partition, Why Not? (Place of publication unknown). Issued on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Council, 1948 (UCDA P150/1996).

57 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 4/5/1949.

58 London’s wish to introduce the Act was built on two salient points; the first was in direct response to the Irish government’s official declaration of the Republic of Ireland Act the previous April; the second was due to Dublin’s decision not to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in Jan. 1949.

59 Irish Press, 4/5/1949.

60 See comments by de Valera, Ennis Co. Clare. Irish Press, 9/5/1949.

61 Ibid.

62 Memorandum entitled ‘Ireland Bill Defence of Northern Ireland’, (undated) (University of Birmingham Library (UOBL) Attlee Papers MS. Dep. 82 Fols. 176-77).

63 Memorandum entitled ‘Secret Ireland Bill – Partition Question’, (undated) (UOBL Attlee Papers MS. Dep. 82 Fols. 256-57).

64 See record of de Valera’s speeches. Irish Press, 26/1/1950, 27/1/1950 and 3/2/1950.

65 Record of de Valera’s anti-partition world tour; section III, July 1948-April 1951(UCDA P150/2996-2997).

66 See comments by de Valera. Irish Press, 26/6/1950.

67 Ibid. Irish Press, 16/3/1951.

68 See record of de Valera’s speeches and comments in the Irish Press for May 1951.

69 Aldous Huxley quoted in David Welch, The Third Reich, Politics and Propaganda, London, Routledge, 2002, p. 9.

70 Record of conversation between de Valera, Aiken and Lord Pakenham in Dublin, 2 May 1952 (UCDA P104/8035).

71 Seán McNally, secretary of the Irish Anti-Partition League Belfast to Aiken, 17 June 1952 (UCDA P104/8608).

72 Record of 39th-46th meetings of the All-Party Anti-Partition Committee, 28 Sept. 1951-26 Oct. 1971 (UCDA P104/8639-8655).

73 Record of secret conversation between Boland and Pakenham, 29 Nov. 1951 (NAI DFA P203/1).

74 Article by Blythe, Towards a Six-Counties Dominion, Dublin, unpublished, 1949 (UCDA P24/1769).

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Stephen Kelly, « A Policy of Futility: Eamon de Valera’s Anti-Partition Campaign, 1948-1951 », Études irlandaises [En ligne], 36-2 | 2011, mis en ligne le 30 septembre 2013, consulté le 12 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/etudesirlandaises/2348 ; DOI : 10.4000/etudesirlandaises.2348

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Stephen Kelly

University College, Dublin

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