CELT document E900015

President De Valéra's Interview

Given on May 2nd and published on May 3rd, 1921. Questions asked by Dr. Zehnder of the Neue Zeitung of Zurich, and the President's replies.

Éamonn de Valera

Whole text

President De ValÉra's Interview


Q. “Do you claim that a condition sine qua non of peace is that the British Government must recognise the Irish Republic? And in that case does the term ‘Irish Republic’ simply mean complete independence, or does it mean that the constitution of Ireland must be republican in form?”

A. “The principle for which we are fighting is the principle of Ireland's right to complete self-determination. The Irish people in the last elections declared unequivocally for the Irish Republic. If the Irish people at any time wish to change their constitution or form of government, it is, of course, their right to do so. We are fighting that there should be no limitation to their choice.”

Q. “If an offer of Dominion Home Rule as for Canada or New Zealand were to be put forward, would the offer be absolutely rejected?”

A. “The fact that this question is asked so often shows how skilfully England has covered up the real issue by raising a false one. The essence of Dominion Home Rule as it exists in Canada and New Zealand is the fact that the Dominions are part of the British Empire of their own free will. The most conservative British statesmen, such as Mr. Bonar Law, have acknowledged the right of the British Dominions to secede should they choose to exercise it. It is obvious that when England is ready to make to us an offer with this implication she will in fact be admitting our right to have the Republic. Without the right to secede the British Dominions would not be what they are—free partners in the British Empire. The test of their status is their right to secede. By denying us that right the British deny us that status.”

“Ireland, of course, has never been a free partner in the British system. She has been brought into it and kept in it entirely by force. We deny that there has been any real union with England, and my use of the word ‘secede’ is not to be regarded as an admission of anything of the kind.”

Q. “What guarantees could or would a free Ireland give to England concerning the so-called strategical and military security of the United Kingdom?”

A. “Whilst Ireland does not admit that England has any right to p.930 guarantees of this kind, Ireland is quite willing to consider the question in the broadest spirit. If British statesmen looked at this matter in its proper light they would readily recognise that with an independent Ireland beside her, England's own national security would be safer than it is at present. No formal guarantees are as binding or would lead to such real unity or such common effort in defence as the compelling forces of mutual interest. A threat to the independence of Britain from a foreign Power might very well be regarded by Ireland as a threat to her own independence, assuming she were free. The man-power and resources of Ireland would then be available against what would be regarded as a common foe. A dependent Ireland, on the other hand, can know of no foe but the one. She can have no interest in fighting any foe but the one—the present master that keeps her in slavery. A contingent master she is ready to risk. It would, at worst, mean but a change of masters. It is unlikely that the change would not be for the better. An independent Ireland would view the matter very differently, for then what would be risked would be a change from independence to slavery.”

“If what England is afraid of is the use of the territory of Ireland, as a base or jumping-off ground for an attack upon her by another Power, we are ready to give guarantees of our neutrality—a neutrality which we would pledge ourselves to defend. If England is ready to consider peace along these lines, it will not be impossible to come to terms. I feel certain that the United States and the other great Powers would be ready to subscribe to such a neutrality guarantee.”

Q. “Will the fighting and the present troubles go on if the British Government does not recognise the right of Ireland to self-determination, and does the Republican Government feel strong enough to fight till a final success? For instance, supposing the British Government say: “If the present troubles do not stop we shall take further measures, severer reprisals”, what would be the position of the Republican Government? ”

A. “The right of Ireland to self-determination can never be surrendered. We shall resist those who seek to deprive us of it and continue to resist as long as any power of resistance remains.”

Q. “How would independent Ireland settle the Ulster question?”

A. “We have shown that we stand for civil and religious equality, for equal security and equal opportunity for all citizens, for giving to minorities full proportional representation. Provided the unity and independence of Ireland is preserved, we are ready to give such local autonomy to Ulster, or to any other part of Ireland, as would be practicable, if it would make for the contentment and satisfaction of the citizens resident there.”

“I feel certain that the Republic would be ready to give to the Six Counties, for instance, far more substantial powers than those they are to possess under the British Partition Act, which was designed less to p.931 give local autonomy to Ulster than to foster political and religious rancour amongst us, and by dividing Ireland into two antagonistic parts to make both subservient to British interests and purposes.”

Q. “What is the position of the Republican Government towards the Army?”

A. “The Republican Army is the constitutional military arm of the Government of the Republic. It can be employed only where and in what manner this civil government prescribes. Its officers are under the control of and removable by the civil government. The Army is, therefore, a regular national defence force.”

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Title statement

Title (uniform): President De Valéra's Interview

Author: Éamonn de Valera

Author: Dr Zehnder

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled by: Audrey Murphy

Funded by: University College, Cork and Professor Marianne McDonald via the CELT Project

Edition statement

2. Second draft.

Extent: 1592 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland — http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2005

Date: 2008

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E900015

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Macardle, Dorothy (1937). ‘President De Valéra’s Interview’. In: The Irish Republic: a documented chronicle of the Anglo-Irish conflict and the partitioning of Ireland, with a detailed account of the period 1916–1923‍. Ed. by Dorothy Macardle. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, pp. 929–931.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Dorothy Macardle},
  title 	 = {President De Valéra's Interview},
  author 	 = {Dorothy Macardle},
  booktitle 	 = {The Irish Republic: a documented chronicle of the Anglo-Irish conflict and the partitioning of Ireland, with a detailed account of the period 1916–1923},
  publisher 	 = {Victor Gollancz Ltd},
  address 	 = {London},
  date 	 = {1937},
  pages 	 = {929–931}


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Creation: by Éamonn de Valera and Dr Zehnder.

Date: 1921-05-02

Language usage

  • The whole text is in English apart from 37 words, principally references to institutions and functionaries. (en)
  • Three words are in Latin. (la)
  • Two words are in German. (de)

Keywords: political; prose; 20c; interview

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(Most recent first)

  1. 2019-06-05: Minor edit made to div0 type description. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2011-01-23: Conversion script run, new wordcount made. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2008-07-19: Value of div0 "type" attribute modified, minor modifications made to header; keywords added. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2005-08-25: Normalised language codes and edited langUsage for XML conversion (ed. Julianne Nyhan)
  5. 2005-08-04T14:41:58+0100: Converted to XML (ed. Peter Flynn)
  6. 2005-02-11: Header updated, file reparsed; HTML file created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  7. 1997-02-25: HTML file generated using OmniMark. (ed. Peter Flynn)
  8. 1997-02-25: File parsed using SGMLS. (ed. Mavis Cournane)
  9. 1996-11-17: Header constructed, structural mark-up added, checked and verified. (ed. Donnchadh Ó Corráin)
  10. 1996: Text proofed. (ed. Audrey Murphy)
  11. 1996: Text captured by scanning. (data capture Audrey Murphy)

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