November 11, 2017

1941. Mediation Sought in Anglo-Irish Dispute Over Military Bases

Agreement Sought Over British Use of Irish Bases
An Irish soldier in a Rolls-Royce Armoured Car talks with another soldier of the Irish Defence Forces during summer training in Cork, 1941 (source)
Settlement Sought in Anglo-Irish Dispute
United Press Staff Correspondent

London, February 21, 1941 (United Press) — Political quarters reported last night that some important United States or Canadian figure may be asked to seek a mediated settlement of the Anglo-Irish dispute, particularly in regard to Britain's desire for Irish naval and air bases.

The possibility of such a mediation attempt was foreseen after a memorandum stressing the "urgent need" of an immediate accord was submitted to Prime Minister Éamon de Valera of Éire and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain.

The memorandum, represented as reflecting the feelings of Irishmen throughout the world, was submitted by a group headed by General Sir Hubert Gough, veteran British military leader who is now leader of Local Defence Volunteers for the London zone.

Wendell L. Willkie, during his recent British tour, flew to Dublin and conferred with de Valera, with whom he was understood to have discussed Britain's struggles to obtain Irish naval and air bases and the right to land shipments of United States war supplies in Irish ports.

There was no indication, however, that Willkie had been proposed for the job of mediator in an attempted settlement between Éire and Britain.

Since the start of the war the British government, fearing a possible German "backdoor" invasion of Britain through Ireland, has sought to obtain Irish bases, which also would give British bombing planes greater range in providing protection for Atlantic convoys.

The de Valera government, striving to maintain its neutrality—although it has been subjected to a series of German bombings and has lost a number of ships—has refused each request.

The memorandum submitted by the group headed by General Gough is understood to make specific recommendations regarding the naval and air bases for Britain as well as the question of Irish unity, involving de Valera's struggle to end the partition between the 26 counties of Éire and the six Northern counties of Ulster to bring about a "United Free Ireland."

Signing the memorandum submitted to Churchill and de Valera were General Gough; Henry Harrison, former Member of Parliament; and Maurice Healy, a lawyer.

"The memorandum emphasizes the urgent need for an immediate Anglo-Irish accord with the maximum concessions by both sides in the interests of all," General Gough said.