Sir William Davison (by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the refusal by the Government of Eire of the American request supported by Great Britain that Axis Consular and Diplomatic representatives should be removed from Eire having regard to the serious danger to the Allies in connection with the forthcoming invasion of Europe in having a centre of espionage within the British Isles, he is satisfied that the steps recently taken to minimise the danger are adequate, and if not what other measures the Government have in view.
The Prime Minister: The initiative in this matter was taken by the United States, because of the danger to the American Armed Forces from the presence of Axis missions in Dublin. His Majesty's Government were, however, of course, consulted throughout by the United States Government, and gave the American approach full support. We have for some time past taken a number of measures to minimise the dangers arising from the substantial disservice to the Allied cause involved in the retention by Mr. de Valera's Government of the German Minister and the Japanese Consul with their staffs in Dublin. The time has now come when these measures must be strengthened, and the restrictions on travel to Ireland announced in the Press yesterday are the first step in the policy designed to isolate Great Britain from Southern Ireland and also to isolate Southern Ireland from the outer world during the critical period which is now approaching.
I need scarcely say how painful it is to us to take such measures in view of the large numbers of Irishmen who are fighting so bravely in our Armed Forces and the many deeds of personal heroism which they have kept alive the martial honour of the Irish race. No one, I think, can reproach us with precipitancy. No nation in the world would have been so patient. In view however of the fact that both British and British Dominion lives and the lives of the soldiers of our Allies 37 are imperilled, we are bound to do our utmost to obtain effective security for the forthcoming operations.
There is also the future to consider. If a catastrophe were to occur to the Allied armies which could be traced to the retention of the German and Japanese representatives in Dublin, a gulf would be opened between Great Britain on the one hand and Southern Ireland on the other which even generations would not bridge. His Majesty's Government would also be held accountable by the people of the United States if it could be shown that we had in any way failed to do everything in our power to safeguard their troops.
Sir W. Davison: May I ask the Prime Minister whether he does not think it essential that the frontier between Ulster and Eire should be closed, in view of the activities of the I.R.A., who have declared war on Great Britain and have riot long ago been apprehended with papers giving particulars of the American Forces at present in Ulster and certain plans of their operations?
The Prime Minister: I prefer to confine myself to a statement in general terms today. All necessary measures, within the limits which I have described, will, of course, be taken as they are deemed to be necessary.
Mr. Vernon Bartlett: May I ask my right hon. Friend whether this decision was taken after prior consultation with the other Dominions, because that would seem to be really important to bring home to the Irish people?
The Prime Minister: Complete unity on that prevails throughout the British Commonwealth, as far as I know.
Sir Ronald Ross: Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the chief emphasis in the United States' note to the Government of Eire was on the dangers to United States' bases in Northern Ireland, and that it was chiefly, or largely, to protect them from espionage that this request was made? Is he not further aware that nothing that has been done up to the present has had the slightest effect to that end, and that while censorship is still applied between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, there is no censorship between Northern Ireland and Eire?
The Prime Minister: As I say, all these matters are receiving constant and vigilant attention.
Professor Savory: I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the retention of these accredited representatives of the Axis Powers in Dublin is consistent with membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations?
The Prime Minister: The whole question of the position of Southern Ireland is anomalous from various points of view, and I can conceive that high legal authorities might have very great difficulty in defining the exact relationship which prevails. At any rate, I shall not attempt to do so at the end of Questions.
Captain Strickland: In deciding the limits of the prohibition on travel between Northern Ireland and this country, would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the position of British soldiers serving in Ireland but due for leave? Will it be possible to make any concession to see that those soldiers are permitted to come back to this country?
The Prime Minister: I must leave the administration of the Act to the Ministers responsible. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will answer questions on the subject in detail.
Mr. Gallacher: I would not like to say anything that would make more difficult a very difficult situation, but I would like to ask if it is not possible, in any further approaches to Eire, to suggest that the question of partition will be a subject for discussion when peace is being decided.
The Prime Minister: I could hardly think of a more ill-conceived approach to the unity of Ireland.