THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Sir James Craig’s promise for the future as he leaves London negotiations

From the News Letter, July 19, 1921

Monday, 19th July 2021, 10:21 am
1st February 1922:  1st Viscount Craigavon (1871 - 1940), Ulster politician, Unionist MP and the first prime minister of Northern Ireland James Craig, Colonel Spencer and Captain Nixon attend a conference with Michael Collins at City Hall, Dublin.  (Photo by Walshe/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1st February 1922: 1st Viscount Craigavon (1871 - 1940), Ulster politician, Unionist MP and the first prime minister of Northern Ireland James Craig, Colonel Spencer and Captain Nixon attend a conference with Michael Collins at City Hall, Dublin. (Photo by Walshe/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

“Sir James Craig and some of his colleagues will arrive in Belfast this morning, having withdrawn, for the time being, from the London conversations, leaving De Valera to continue his negotiations on behalf of Southern Ireland,” reported the News Letter on this day in 1921

The News Letter noted that “Ulster’s attitude is defined in a striking declaration by the Northern Premier. . . in which he affirms on behalf of Northern Ireland the right to adhere to the principle of ‘self-determination’ upon which De Valera sets great store.

Speaking to the News Letter’s London before departing for Belfast on the 7.45pm train from Euston Station accompanied by Mr Andrews, Mr Archdale and Colonel Spender, the Ulster Premier gave the following statement: “I am returning home well satisfied with the efforts being made towards peace. Mr De Valera has broken silence, and cleared the ground by his statement in this (Monday) morning’s press that he proposes to found his claims upon the recognition of the right of self-determination.

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“By an overwhelming majority at our recent election - the constitutional method of expressing self-determination - the people of Northern Ireland have determined their own Parliament, which was opened by his Gracious Majesty in person. Mr De Valera and his colleagues have already admitted the right such ‘self-determination’ on the part Northern Ireland the fact that they themselves stood as candidates for the Northern Parliament, and submitted their policy of ‘no partition’.

“This was the only issue placed before the electorate, and ‘no partition’ was rejected by the largest majority which, so far as I aware, has ever been secured a general election in any part of the world.

“Such being the true facts, it now merely remains for Mr De Valera and the British people to come to terms regarding the area outside of that I am Prime Minister. The people of Northern Ireland, on behalf of whom speak, while claiming in the most absolute way possible - as has been done - to ‘determine’ their own fate, do not make any claim whatever to determine the terms of settlement which Great Britain shall make with Southern Ireland.

“When this is accomplished I can promise cordial co-operation on equal terms with Southern Ireland in any matters affecting our common interest.”

Sir James Craig concluded: “Having reached the present stage, I go back to Ireland to carry on the practical work of government. I feel that our interests are ably represented in the Imperial Parliament, and, of course, our services arc available at any moment.”

Meanwhile Lieutenant-Colonel Archer-Shee, a Coalition Unionist member for Finsbury, had withdrawn his support from the government in consequence its action in opening negotiations with De Valera.

In letter to the Chief Unionist Whip (Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Wilson) he said: “Dear Wilson, I am writing to say I regret that 1 can no lunger be regarded a supporter of the Coalition Government, and, therefore, I must ask you to take me off your list for the Whip. I shall retain my seat as a Conservative. The reason for my being obliged to take this step is that I entirely disapprove of the Cabinet;s policy with reference to the Irish rebellion in negotiating with De Valera, who, as far as am aware, is a fugitive from justice, having escaped from prison some years ago. De Valera is one of the inner ring the Sinn Fein organisation, which has stained the name Ireland with its foul crimes for the the last two years.”