Northern Ireland

‘Settle Your Difficulties Yourselves’ – On This Day in 1924

Donegal farmers found themselves having to wait until the new border post at Galliagh opened before they could bring their produce into Derry to sell.
Donegal farmers wait until the new border post at Galliagh opens before they can bring their produce into Derry to sell
February 29 1924

Speaking as the principal guest of the Canada Club at their annual dinner at the Savoy Hotel, Mr J H Thomas, Colonial Secretary, said Canada had shown them that the Empire could flourish by a new and different method, and it was that method which bound the Empire together today. That great citizenship of the commonwealth of nations was no empty form, and it was, he hoped, and would ever remain, the greatest factor for peace the world had ever known.

During the last two years we had added another nation to that great commonwealth of nations. In Ireland we had healed a breach of long standing and cemented the friendship between the two peoples. The relationship between nation and nation within our Empire was not a question of party politics.

There were people who profoundly disagreed with the Irish settlement, but there were no people, no responsible party politicians, that would do other than wish well to the settlement of the Irish nation.

Mr Thomas added that, speaking for the Government, they accepted the Treaty in the spirit and in the letter: “I have no hesitation in saying to you that we give effect to it; but anyone who has visited Ireland – anyone who has followed the Irish problem and who knows anything of the situation – must be well aware that the difficulties between north and south can never be settled permanently and satisfactorily by an outside body.

“I am one of those who hope – yea, and pray – that this one outstanding question will not be settled by an outside authority, with bitterness and feeling and differences; but will be settled by Irishmen themselves sitting round the table and saying: ‘We are the best judges of our own difficulties; we can best solve our own problems’.”

That was the only way that a lasting peace could be obtained; that was the only way, in his judgement, that a permanent solution would be found; and it was because he believed that that he hoped – regardless of their politics, regardless of their differences of opinion – all those who could contribute anything towards it would work for a solution on these lines.

As a conference on the boundary question was postponed due to James Craig being ill, the incoming Labour Colonial Secretary, J H Thomas suggests it should not convene at all and that Irishmen, north and south, should resolve the issue themselves.