THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: News Letter’s view on De Valera’s ‘economic war’ and cosying up to Germany

From the News Letter, July 23, 1932

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 1:18 pm
Eamon De Valera at Shannon Airport in the early 1960s
Eamon De Valera at Shannon Airport in the early 1960s

“Mr De Valera, on entering upon what he describes as ‘an economic war’ with the United Kingdom, evidently taken for the model the plan of his ‘European allies’ in starting the world conflict eighteen years ago,” declared the News Letter on this day in 1932.

“Like the Germans, he regards a solemn agreement a ‘scrap of paper’, to torn up when it suits his purpose, and, like the Germans, he does not see why such action should be resented by the other party the document. ‘We fired the first shot,’ he confesses, and he adds, in effect, ‘if we cannot have everything our own way, then we claim - as the Germans did - to acting defence our rights.’”

“Mr De Valera shows not the least desire for settlement. He refuses to accept Empire arbitration because he knows that the British Government will accept no other Tribunal, and with a pretence of moderation he expresses himself as willing to go to arbitration if he can have as chairman of the Tribunal, say, a German politician. Direct negotiations with the British Government are ruled out the question because of “the war atmosphere” in which they would be held. Mr De Valera’s real object is the fulfilment of that aspiration which he has set before him ever since he thrust himself into Irish affairs - a Free State, including, if possible, the whole of Ireland, which would be isolated from the countries of the world, save, perhaps, Germany

The News Letter’s editorial continued: “‘We have got,’ he declares, ‘to take measures to see that as little produce as possible comes into this country, so that we can use our own home products.’ If possible, ‘the little’ that the Free State requires from the outside world in the shape of coal, machinery, and other things is to be supplied by ‘our European allies’. Already negotiations have been going on with German firms, who, it is stated, are quite willing to execute orders for coal and machinery, provided they are given substantial preferences and ... duties are placed on British competitive commodities. If, however, the people, of the Free State are to consume their own products and import only a certain amount of necessities, it is evident that there should be some exports to pay for these imports. It is here that the De Valera plan loses its glamour. Germany is quite willing to do a profitable export trade, but she is not prepared to find in exchange a market for Free State livestock and farm produce. She is doing everything she can to stimulate her own agricultural industry, and in consequence restrictions have been placed on imports of livestock and dairy produce from neighbouring countries. The outlook, therefore, for a community which is to consume everything it produces - to live, so to say, its own fat - cannot be said to be too promising.”

It added: “If, however, Mr De Valera desires to build up trade between the Free State and Germany, to the exclusion of the United Kingdom, the proper of the economic delegation would seem to be Berlin, and not Ottawa. The members not would certainly have felt more at home and less open to embarrassment in the German capital. They would not have been required to approve a resolution of thanks to His Majesty the King, nor would they have had to pay a tribute to the fallen in the fight for the Empire’s existence. They have had to do things in Ottawa, in fact, which must cause resentment to all good Gaels, and especially the Irish Republican organisation. They did what they scorned to Dublin - acknowledge His Majesty the King as head of the Empire, and honour instead of insult the Governor-General of the country as the King’s representative. By doing so they have associated Mr De Valera and other members of the Executive Council with ‘degrading and disgraceful act of bowing down British Imperialism’.”

The News Letter concluded: “If there were prospect of ‘returning with the sheaves’ in the shape of valuable trade agreements, it might be possible to justify to some extent this ‘act of humiliation’, but there is not. The attitude of the British delegation continues to be that refusing to enter into an agreement with a government which has already broken an agreement. The Free State delegation would have accomplished as much, or as little, if it had journeyed Berlin or remained home.”