Letter from the British Prime Minister to President de Valera, June 24th, 1921:
London, 24 June 1921
The British Government are deeply anxious that, so far as they can assure it, the King’s appeal for reconciliation in Ireland shall not have not been made in vain. Rather than allow yet another opportunity of settlement in Ireland to be cast aside, they felt it incumbent upon them to make a final appeal, in the spirit of the King’s words,1 for a conference between themselves and the representatives of Southern and Northern Ireland.
I write, therefore, to convey the following invitation to you as the chosen leader of the great majority in Southern Ireland, and to Sir James Craig, the Premier of Northern Ireland:—
(1) That you should attend a conference here in London, in company with Sir James Craig, to explore to the utmost the possibility of a settlement.
(2) That you should bring with you for the purpose any colleagues whom you may select. The Government will, of course, give a safe conduct to all who may be chosen to participate in the conference.
We make this invitation with a fervent desire to end the ruinous conflict which has for centuries divided Ireland and embittered the relations of the peoples of these two islands, who ought to live in neighbourly harmony with each other, and whose co-operation would mean so much not only to the Empire but to humanity.
We wish that no endeavour should be lacking on our part to realise the King’s prayer, and we ask you to meet us, as we will meet you, in the spirit of conciliation for which His Majesty appealed.
I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,
David Lloyd George
E. de Valera, Esq.
Reply of President de Valera, June 28th:
I have received your letter. I am in consultation with such of the principal representatives of our nation as are available. We most earnestly desire to help in bringing about a lasting peace between the peoples of these two islands, but see no avenue by which it can be reached if you deny Ireland’s essential unity and set aside the principle of national self-determination.
Before replying more fully to your letter, I am seeking a conference with certain representatives of the political minority in this country.
Mansion House, Dublin.
Éamon de Valera.
Appendix: Correspondence between President De Valera and representatives of the political minority in Ireland, June 28th-29th, 1921:
Letter from President de Valera, June 28th, 1921:
To: Sir James Craig,
The Earl of Midleton,
Sir Maurice E. Dockrell,
Sir Robert H. Woods,
Mr. Andrew Jameson.
June 28th, 1921.
The reply which I, as spokesman for the Irish Nation, shall make to Mr. Lloyd George will affect the lives and fortunes of the political minority in this island, no less than those of the majority.
Before sending that reply, therefore, I would like to confer with you and to learn from you at first hand the views of a certain section of our people of whom you are representative.
I am confident that you will not refuse this service to Ireland, and I shall await you at the Mansion House, Dublin, at 11 a.m. on Monday next in the hope that you will find it possible to attend.
ÉAMON DE VALERA.
The President’s invitation was accepted by the Earl of Midleton, Mr. Andrew Jameson, Sir Maurice Dockrell, and Sir Robert Woods.
The letter to Sir James Craig having been delayed in transmission, the President, on June 28th, sent the following telegram to him:
To Sir James Craig, Craigavon, Co. Down.
Can you come Dublin Monday next, 11 a.m.? On receipt of your reply will write you.
ÉAMON DE VALERA,
Mansion House, Dublin
Sir James Craig telegraphed declining the invitation in the following terms:
Impossible for me to arrange any meeting. I have already accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation to London Conference, and, in order to obviate misunderstanding in Press between my namesake in the Southern Parliament and myself, I am publishing these telegrams.
JAMES CRAIG, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
On receipt of this reply President de Valera telegraphed as follows to Sir James Craig:
Sir James Craig, City Hall, Belfast.
June 29th, 1921.
I greatly regret you cannot come to conference here on Monday. Mr. Lloyd George’s proposal, because of its implications, impossible of acceptance in its present form. Irish political differences ought to be adjusted, and can, I believe, be adjusted on Irish soil. But it is obvious that in negotiating peace with Great Britain the Irish delegation ought not to be divided, but should act as a unit on some common principle.
ÉAMON DE VALERA.
Conferences were held on July 4th and July 8th, at the Mansion House, Dublin, between President de Valera, the Earl of Midleton, Sir Robert Woods, Sir Maurice Dockrell, and Mr. Andrew Jameson.
At the conclusion of the Conference on July 8th, the following official statement was issued:
President de Valera informed the Conference of the terms in which he proposed to reply to the British Prime Minister’s invitation.
At its previous session the Conference had expressed the view that it would be impossible to conduct negotiations with any hope of achieving satisfactory results unless there was a cessation of bloodshed in Ireland.
A letter to Lord Midleton from Mr. Lloyd George was read concurring in this view, and indicating the willingness of the British Government to assent to a suspension of active operations on both sides.
It is expected that an announcement of a truce, to take effect from Monday next, will be made early to-morrow.
President de Valera sent the following reply to the British Prime Minister’s proposal of June 24th for a Conference in London:
Mansion house, Dublin July 8th, 1921
The desire you express on the part of the British Government to end the centuries of conflict between the peoples of these two islands, and to establish relations of neighbourly harmony, is the genuine desire of the people of Ireland.
I have consulted with my colleagues and secured the views of the representatives of the minority of our Nation in regard to the invitation you have sent me.
In reply, I desire to say that I am ready to meet and discuss with you on what bases such a Conference as that proposed can reasonably hope to achieve the object desired.
I am, Sir, Faithfully yours,
Éamon de Valera
On July 9th Mr. Lloyd George telegraphed as follows:
E. de Valera,
Mansion House, Dublin.
I have received your letter of acceptance and shall be happy to see you and any colleagues whom you wish to bring with you at Downing Street any day this week. Please wire date of your arrival in London.
D. LLOYD GEORGE.
The President telegraphed in reply that he could be in London for the Conference on Thursday next, the 14th.