General Smuts Writes to Éamon de Valera

Sunday Mirror, 14 August 1921

On 14 August, several newspapers reported on a letter sent from General Smuts, prime minister of the Union of South Africa, to Éamon de Valera. Writing on 4 August, Smuts told de Valera that he had unsuccessfully tried to arrange a one-to-one meeting with James Craig to discuss the Irish situation. He then stated that his ‘conviction is that for the present no solution based on Ulster coming into the Irish State will succeed. Ulster will not agree. She cannot be forced, and any solution on those lines is at present foredoomed to failure’. He recommended, therefore, that de Valera accept Dominion status for the twenty-six counties.

Smuts Reveals Secret of Irish Peace Deadlock

In a remarkable letter, which he sent to De Valera ten days ago, and which is published with the consent of the Prime Minister, General Smuts reveals the secret of the deadlock in the Irish peace negotiations, and shows the only way out.

Sinn Fein insists on embodying Ulster in a United State of Ireland, but Sir James Craig refuses. General Smuts, therefore, advises Sinn Fein to abandon this claim. “Leave Ulster alone,” he says, “and accept the offer of the Premier to give to twenty-six counties of the South full Dominion status, subject to strategic safeguards.” “What is good enough for other Dominions ought, surely, to be good enough for you,” says General Smuts, in a moving speech to De Valera, and he concludes: “You have a unique opportunity to secure an honourable and lasting peace.”

It is highly significant that General Smuts’ letter was issued last night after the Cabinet had met and dispatched their reply to De Valera’s demand for the release of all Sinn Fein prisoners and the withdrawal of Crown forces from Ireland.