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Chronicon 1 (1997) 4: 1-68
1. The closure of most of the official archives of the Irish state until the early 1990s, when a 30-year rule was first introduced, has resulted in the relative underdevelopment of contemporary Irish history when compared to the level of specialisation and publication record in the majority of other countries in the European Union (EU). The large number of national and comparative studies on the first unsuccessful attempt at enlargement in 1962 demonstrates the advanced state of scholarship in many countries on that topic.1 In contrast, the study of Irish history in the 1950s and 1960s based on official archives including the country's relationship with the European Economic Community (EEC) has only recently got under way in the mid-1990s.2 This work has not caught up with research in comparable countries in Europe.3
2. This article, using the files of the Departments of the Taoiseach [Prime Minister] and External Affairs [renamed Foreign Affairs in the 1970s] and interviews with Irish participants, will first examine the background to Ireland's shift in policy from protectionism towards free trade at the end of the 1950s. It will then trace the Irish policy and decisionmaking process from the time of application in mid-1961 to de Gaulle's veto of British membership in January 1963. A small group of politicians and senior civil servants were responsible for the drafting and management of the application for membership and for the subsequent round of discussions which eventually resulted in a positive decision to allow Ireland to enter negotiations on membership.4 The Irish Permanent Representation to the Commission was not established until 1963. Up to that point the Ambassador to Belgium, Francis Biggar, had the responsibility playing a dual diplomatic role.5 He was assisted by Eamonn Gallagher, Department of External Affairs. Dr Donal O'Sullivan, seconded from the Department of Industry and Commerce, also played an important role in the 1961/2 application process.6 The country's civil service generally was poorly prepared to cope with the new challenge thrown up by the decision to 'go into' Europe. There were exceptions, the Secretary of the Department of Finance, Dr Kenneth Whitaker and the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, Con Cremin, being among the most prominent.7
3. This article first establishes the general historical context in which the Irish decision to enter Europe was first made---a debate which involved the movement away from economic protectionism towards free trade. The decision to apply for full EEC membership marked a decisive defeat for the adherents of Éamon de Valera's traditional policy of protectionism. The application for EEC membership, it will be argued, had radical implications for the future of Irish neutrality. Having declined to join NATO in 1949, Dublin retained its wartime policy of neutrality. The Taoiseach [Prime Minister], Seán Lemass, would go further than any other Irish leader before or since in signalling that his government was not wedded to neutrality. Although never explicitly stated, this article will argue, the Six expressed varying degrees of concern to the Irish about the admission of a non-NATO member into the EEC. The unambiguous response of Lemass on neutrality finally convinced the Six that non-member of NATO would not constitute a problem. Ireland, he would argue, was prepared to join any military defence arrangement organised by the member states of the EEC.
Historical background---From Protectionism toward Free Trade
4. Ireland's decision to apply for full membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) on 31 July 1961 was symbolic of the significant domestic political victory which the Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, and a section of the civil service had enjoyed over the traditionalists in the ruling Fianna Fáil party and in the civil service. The latter were still wedded to the idea of protectionism---a policy which had been pursued since Éamon de Valera first came to power in 1932. Up to the latter's retirement from politics in 1959 at the age of 77, Fianna Fáil had been in office for twenty-one of those twenty-seven years. De Valera's departure did not so much precipitate the change from protectionism to free trade as facilitate the acceleration of a process which had been initiated by the untenable nature of the status quo. The decade of the 1950s was characterised in Ireland by high unemployment and mass emigration.8 In 1957, the worst year of emigration during the decade, the net loss of population was 54,000 people. The total for the decade, 1951 to 1961, was a loss of 400,000 people. By 1961, the population had declined to 2.8 million, a drop of five per cent on the figure at the foundation of the state in 1922. At its peak, there were 78,000 out of work in 1957.9
5. Ireland was wholly dependent on the British market with 81% of her exports going there in 1956. [That figure had dropped to 66% in 1969.] The country's dismal economic record stands in contrast to the relative prosperity in neighbouring Britain, in Scandinavia and in the countries of the Six.
6. The orthodoxies of protectionism had become deeply entrenched in the civil service, particularly in the upper echelons of the Department of Industry and Commerce, of which paradoxically Seán Lemass was minister until his appointment as Taoiseach in 1959.10 But, as Brian Girvin has shown, all the major departments were slow to move away from the comfort of the old orthodoxies. Confronted by the emergence of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), the dilemma of the Irish civil servants and politicians was evident and they continued to opt for `the primacy of traditional policy'.11 The more heterodox among the civil servants had struck a 'damned if we do and damned if we don't ' policy stance. But that was to postpone the inevitable. Outside government circles, between 1957 and 1959, influential economists like Professor Patrick Lynch, University College Dublin and W.J. Louden Ryan, Trinity College Dublin, had signalled the need for a change in policy. In the intimate world of Dublin's minuscule policy-making elite, the thinking in academic, business and agribusiness circles had an influence on senior civil servants and the impetus for change came from within what would have been commonly regarded as the citadel of conservatism---the Department of Finance.12
7. Dr Ken Whitaker, appointed secretary of the Department of Finance at the age of 40 in 1956, has been duly credited with leading the drive for change in economic policy in the years leading up to the application for full membership of the EEC in 1961.13 But the significance of that policy decision is better understood in the context of the rearguard hostility to a departure from protectionism which was very evident within the Department of Industry and Commerce and elsewhere. Professor Brendan Walsh correctly argues that `the formal end of the era of protectionism in Ireland was signalled by its first application for membership' of the EEC.14 Files in the Department of Finance which were not available to Prof. Walsh when he wrote the above confirm that view.15
8. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Seán Lemass, authorised the publication on 21 November 1958, under Dr T.K. Whitaker's own name, of the 250-page study, Economic Development. Completed six months before, many of the ideas in that study were adopted by the government White Paper, Programme for Economic Expansion which had already been published on 11 November. Both documents had a significant influence on the changing of the fundamental orthodoxies of Irish economic thinking.16 Whitaker wrote in Economic Development:
`After 35 years of native government people are asking whether we can achieve an acceptable degree of economic progress. The common talk among parents in the towns, as well as in rural Ireland, is of their children having to emigrate as soon as their education is completed in order to secure a reasonable standard of living'.17
9. Seán Lemass, who had chaired the cabinet committee which had finalised the text of the White Paper, became Taoiseach in June 1959. The implementation of those ideas became his first priority in an Ireland in the early 1960s which was beginning to show some signs of recovery from the malaise and torpor of the 1950s. The establishment of an Irish television station in 1961 did much to expose the society to self-analysis, to self-criticism and to seeing the state of the nation in a comparative European and wider international context.18
10. The new economic strategy was to increase Irish agricultural production and look for markets in the higher priced Continental food market. The plan was also to attract foreign capital for investment in employment-intensive manufacturing export industries.19 The shift towards swift trade liberalisation was not that easily achieved against what Whitaker described on 27 November 1959 as `the diehard Industry and Commerce contention that joining EFTA (and presumably any other free trade area) would be of no economic benefit to this country ...'20 Lemass came to share Whitaker's desire to move away from what the latter had termed `unprogressive isolation'.21 Whitaker had developed his ideas on the matter on 14 December 1959 in a memorandum entitled `Reasons for Reducing Protection'.22 This internal debate was taking place in the context of the wider discussion about possible Irish membership of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) which the British strongly encouraged.23 The secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce, J.C.B. MacCarthy, was less than impressed with Whitaker's line of argument, and he told him on 22 December:
`I feel, however, that I ought to say at this stage in relation to your memorandum on the desirability of reducing protection that I cannot accept the views set out in it other than as a, if you will not mind my putting it that way, somewhat idealistic approach which is not, as I am sure you will agree, backed by anything more than faith in the operation of the economic laws which are expounded'.24
11. Whitaker did very much mind, and he wrote on 23 December to MacCarthy:
`Before we enter the season of goodwill I feel I should make a short comment on your letter of 22nd December, which rather unfairly tries to force me into accepting, as applying to our memorandum `Reasons for Reducing Protection', either of two denigratory epithets, "provocative" or "doctrinaire". I hope that on reconsideration you will treat this reasoned document not as putting forward an "idealistic" approach but for reasons given in it and elaborated in the letter I sent Cremin yesterday as containing, in my view, the essence of realism. ... We both of us know people who are more Catholic than the Pope; should Industry and Commerce not guard against being more protectionist than the Federation of Irish Industries?' 25Whitaker had won the support of Lemass who was not an easy or enthusiastic convert to a free trade policy.
12. Both men were enthusiastically supported by the Irish Council of the European Movement (ICEM), which included among its active and influential membership the future Foreign Minister and Taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald.26 Domestic pressure mounted to join the EEC as Lemass revealed on 13 October 1962 in a conversation with the French Foreign Minister, Couve de Murville, on 13 October 1962:
`In this connection, he [Lemass] recalled the existence already in 1960 of some pressure on the Government by economic interests to join the Six, adding that it became quite clear from the way in which Mr [R.] Maudling [Minister who had managed the Free Trade area talks]27 reacted to a reference to this fact, during discussions in London in February of that year, that such a move on our part would be interpreted by the British in a way which would have had serious repercussions on our trade relations with them'.28
13. There was great surprise in Dublin, therefore, when it was rumoured in early 1961 that Britain might apply for full EEC membership. Dublin now had no choice but to seek full membership. Britain influenced the timing of the Irish decision. The ideological battle to opt for free trade had been long since won.
Ireland's applications for membership, July 1961---January 1962
14. The Irish government decided, following the submission of its letter of application to join the EEC on 31 July, to send an explanatory aide memoire to each of the governments of the Six.29 Drafted by Cremin, it concentrated very much on the economic dimension of the Irish application. This tactic resulted only in confusing and complicating the Irish position and Irish diplomats had to be informed by Lemass on 14 August to state that the aide memoire was not part of the Irish application. Professor Ludwig Erhard, the German Vice-Chancellor, Minister for Economics and President of the EEC Council, had sent a query to Dublin as to whether the aide memoire formed part of Ireland's formal application. 30 Lemass replied in the negative on 19 August. Erhard then informed the Taoiseach that the Irish application would be placed before the Council of Ministers at their next meeting.
15. The Council met on 25, 26 and 27 September 1961 where Britain and the Danes were allowed to proceed to the negotiation stage. But in the case of Ireland, the Council decided to wait upon the opinion of the Commission which would be ready by mid-October. Although never published, it is reported to have referred to the need to study whether Ireland, in view of her 'special circumstances', would be in a position to fulfil the economic and political commitments under the Treaty of Rome.
16. Following the Council, Erhard told Lemass in a letter on the 24th that the member states of the Six wished to have an `exchange of views' with him in Brussels to discuss `the special problems' raised by the application.31
17. More experienced observers of EEC politics might not have reacted negatively to that proposal. But so concerned had Lemass become at the reports from Irish embassies about the `special problems' of the Irish case that he had sent Whitaker and Cremin on a tour of the capitals between 5 and 13 September 1961. Although they were very well received they concluded that the political dimension of the Irish application was a source of much speculation.32 Would Ireland play her role in a future political community and in a defence community if and when it came into existence? Here was the negative legacy of the policy of neutrality. Even more alarmingly both men also gathered from a senior official in the Foreign Ministry in Bonn that the most Dublin could hope for was associate membership.33
18. As a consequence of their report, Irish diplomatic efforts in the latter part of 1961 were directed towards assuaging the fears of European and American politicians and administrators concerning the country's economic preparedness and its good faith in regard to the longer term objectives for the establishment of a political community and ultimately a European defence commitments.34
19. Meanwhile, great care was paid in the intervening weeks to the drafting of a text for Lemass's speech on 18 January 1962 in Brussels. Sensitised by his recent trip to the capitals of the Six, Dr Whitaker told Lemass in a memorandum that `it would be economic disaster for us to be outside the community if Britain is in it'.35 He was especially keen to avoid any suggestion that if joining NATO were insisted upon as a condition of membership, Ireland would not withdraw its application: `Nobody has yet told us that this is a condition ... On the other hand, nobody so loves us as to want us in the EEC on our own terms'.36 Whitaker's memorandum did have an influence and led to a number of significant changes in the text of Lemass's speech.37
20. The Taoiseach, keen to counteract the view that Ireland was only half-hearted about her application, told the Brussels' meeting:
`While Ireland did not accede to the North Atlantic Treaty, we have always agreed with the general aim of the Treaty. The fact that we did not accede to it was due to the special circumstances and does not qualify in any way our acceptance of the ideal of European unity and of the conception, embodied in the Treaty of Rome and the Bonn Declaration of 18 July last, of the duties, obligations and responsibilities which European unity would impose'.38
21. Lemass covered all the major areas in his presentation. The overall impact was favourable according to Ambassador Biggar who spoke about the visit to officials in the Netherlands, Swedish and Norwegian delegations. However, Ambassador McDonald in Paris was not able to ascertain with any degree of precision the reaction of the French who had taken over the EEC Council presidency in January.39 Senior officials in Dublin knew that doubts lingered among the Six and in the Commission about the weak state of the Irish economy. There were also concerns over the country's non-membership of NATO. 40
Domestic concern over NATO and `Political Union'
22. Domestic reaction to the Irish application had been broadly very positive. Lemass received praise from his Fianna Fáil colleagues while the opposition Fine Gael party broadly agreed with the government's EEC strategy. The Labour Party and a number of independent backbenchers were more agnostic; questions were asked in Dáil Éireann about the country 's neutral status in the light of the application for membership of the EEC. Were the political dimension of the EEC to became the subject of internal political controversy, there would be a danger that such news would only reinforce doubts already expressed in a number of the European capitals over the bona fides of the Irish case. With the undoubted private promptings of the Taoiseach, the Minister for Lands, Micheál Ó Moráin, made a speech in Claremorris, County Mayo, on 5 February 1962 in the course of which he said:
`It had been made quite clear by the Taoiseach on different occasions that a policy of neutrality here in the present world division between communism and freedom was never laid down by us or indeed ever envisaged by our people. Neutrality in this context is not a policy to which we would even wish to appear committed. ... Our whole history and cultural tradition and outlook has been bound up with that of Europe for past ages. We have, I believe, a full part to play in this day and age in the integration and development of a United States of Europe, and towards this end it may be necessary for us to share any political decisions for the common good'.41
Perhaps the minister exceeded his brief? But the speech only brought further unwelcome publicity and fuelled domestic controversy over the future of Irish neutrality.
23. That did not please Dr Whitaker who, on 10 February, told his counterpart in the Department of the Taoiseach, Nicholas Nolan, that if the political dimension of the EEC became the subject of internal controversy it would not escape the notice of Brussels. He suggested that in order to counter any further speculation, Lemass should table a motion that Dáil Éireann approved of his statement in Brussels.42 Dr Whitaker was told that the idea would be put to the Taoiseach.43 But that did not happen.
24. Lemass faced hostile questioning in Dáil Éireann on 14 February on the political and defence dimensions of the Irish application:
`I say in this regard that it would be highly undesirable that remarks made here should give the impression in Europe that there is a public opinion in this county which regards membership of NATO as something discreditable. The view of the Government in that regard has been made clear. We think the existence of NATO is necessary for the preservation of peace and for the defence of the countries of Western Europe, including this country. Although we are not members of NATO, we are in full agreement with its aims'.44
25. Seeking to ensure that the an unambiguous message would reach Brussels, Lemass took many opportunities to stress the message cited immediately above. But as the survival of the government depended upon the vote of a single independent, Lemass had also to ensure that he pacified backbenchers in Dáil Éireann.
26. The secretaries [most senior civil servants] of government departments involved in the application the Taoiseach's office, Agriculture, Finance, Industry and Commerce and External Affairs met on the same day as the parliamentary session.45 Cremin, of External Affairs, tabled a recent report from the Irish ambassador in Paris; McDonald had spoken to the director of the Economic Division, Olivier Wormser at the Quai d'Orsay and `according to the impression he formed', said Cremin, `Mr Wormser's attitude to our application was negative'. That must have worried Cremin in particular. Cremin, who knew Wormser from the early 1950s when he had served as Irish Ambassador in France, would have agreed with Alain Peyrefitte's view of that distinguished official: `Ce gaulliste de toujours et de premier rang n'a cessé de rendre les plus grands service a de Gaulle'.46 [His powers of cartesian analysis would become well known to the British negotiators.] Cremin stressed to the meeting the ultimate uncertainty of the political implications of membership. Britain, he said, might enter the EEC without being 'allowed' to join the political union.47 Cremin continued:
`If one looked at the Bonn Declaration from that standpoint, it would be seen that, whereas it was interpreted to mean that if a country were to join the EEC it must be ready to join in the political union, it was not quite explicit on this point. These observations were, however, highly conjectural, arising out of press comment about the 'exclusiveness' of the second French draft [Fouchet plan], and it would be imprudent to assume that willingness to participate in political union was not a prerequisite for membership of the Community'.
27. Whitaker, who worked closely with Cremin, sought the immediate preparation of a paper on the political implications of Irish membership of the EEC, not only in relation to NATO but it would also include matters such as the surrender of sovereignty to Community institutions. Cremin undertook to have a comprehensive document drafted on the political implications of membership.48
28. As senior officials in Dublin sought to interpret the politic of the EEC, the Irish government continued to receive bad news from the ambassador in Brussels during the last two weeks in February. Biggar met the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, M. Calmes, concerning the probable handling of the Irish application at the Council meeting on 5 March. Biggar, when told that the application was not formally on the agenda, spoke about the inconvenience of delay. Calmes undertook to speak to Couve de Murville, as France held the presidency of the Council.49
29. Biggar's report together with one from the Paris embassy created a flurry of uncertainty in Dublin. Dr Whitaker, in contrast, felt it was very important for the Irish to hold their nerve as he told Cremin on 1 March:
`It is impolitic to rush them when they have other and more pressing preoccupations. If rushed, they may take up the position suggested by the most negatively-minded member, this being the line of least resistance'.
30. Dr Whitaker suggested that it was better in the circumstances to maintain a `dignified calm' and to take action through the Irish ambassadors in Brussels and Paris. He suggested that Couve de Murville be made aware that the Irish noted with disappointment that the question of her application had not been placed on the agenda for the Council meeting on 5 March, and it was to be hoped that that would not exclude the possibility of the Council dealing with it.50
31. A meeting of departmental secretaries on the same day (1 March) agreed with Dr Whitaker:
`... a tactful and moderately-worded approach should be made as soon as possible by the ambassador in Paris to Couve de Murville in his capacity as chairman of the EEC Council of Ministers, to approach to take the form of a personal message from the Taoiseach to the effect that he had learned from our mission in Brussels that Ireland was not included in the formal agenda for the meeting of the Council, that he was somewhat disappointed by this development as he had understood from the meeting of 18th January that our approach would be before the March meeting of the Council'.
Cremin was so to inform McDonald in Paris. Ambassador Biggar in Brussels was to approach Calmes to advise him of Dublin's overture to Couve de Murville.
32. At the same meeting Whitaker, worried by the divisions within Dáil Éireann on membership of NATO, told his fellow secretaries that they had to keep clear in their minds ... that, while membership of NATO may not be a sine qua non for entry into the EEC, we would be committed to participate in the common defence arrangements and foreign policy of the Community. While European Ministers would, no doubt, understand political difficulties presented by a name or by certain formalities, he thought there was considerable danger that our present attitude would be understood in Community circles to mean that we could not join in any defence system with Britain.
33. Whitaker's emphasis clearly revealed his grasp of the EEC as a community in the process of evolution; Ireland was not joining a static organisation. Therefore, in retrospect, it is important to point out the Secretary of Finance's ability to contextualise the NATO question which was not on the table. But even if only made semi-explicit it was not an abstract consideration.51
34. As the session concluded, Dr Whitaker returned to the suggestion that he had made at an earlier meeting; he felt that it was time to `straighten these matters out by means of an objective, logical statement on the political implications of membership of the EEC'.52
35. That logical statement may have partially come in the form of an interview on 15 March with Dr Garret FitzGerald on Telefis Éireann, Topic at Ten programme. Lemass first stressed the need for full membership. He then went on to give full reassurance regarding the Irish position:
`Personally, I regard this coming together of western European countries as the greatest, most hopeful event of this century, and enormous in its potential for good, not merely for the peoples of Europe but for the whole world'.
36. When FitzGerald asked him about the coordination of foreign policy, defence and cultural matters, he replied:
`Yes, indeed, it is clear that without full and unreserved acceptance of these obligations, membership will not be conceded to any country'.
37. FitzGerald then asked about the significance of NATO:
`... we are not members of NATO, to explain that this did not mean that we are not in agreement with the general aims of NATO, but was due to special circumstances, and to stress that it implied no lack of enthusiasm or support for the idea of European unity. There is, however, no reason to think that our non-membership of NATO will be a decisive factor affecting our admission to the community'.53
38. The message to Couve de Murville had been drafted on 2 March. Lemass approved the text and that evening it was delivered by Ambassador McDonald to the Quai d'Orsay; Couve de Murville read the note down `with a great show of concentration'. The ambassador noted that his attitude was `friendly but non-committal' on balance. McDonald found that his manner `was objective and perhaps encouraging rather than anything to the contrary'. Although Ireland was not on the agenda, the ambassador was told that the Six would discuss a number of cases on the 6th, including Ireland, Spain and the neutrals which Couve de Murville remarked, presented special problems. Asked about Denmark being in a special category, he said they were to have discussion with the Danes at the end of March. The ambassador asked if they were to be regarded as negotiations proper, `he pooh-poohed the idea a bit, saying that he did not know if he could call them negotiations'.
39. Couve de Murville went on to say, a propos of paragraph 4 of the Irish note, that perhaps the best thing would be for the Six to give something to the Irish government which could be passed on to the public after the discussions which were to take place on the 6th March. The ambassador replied: `I agreed, in so far as I could do so for myself, but I told him that I would like to check the point with Dublin and that I could do so immediately on returning to my office'. He agreed that if the suggestion was agreeable to the Taoiseach the ambassador would not have to do anything more. McDonald then asked, in a personal capacity, about his linking of Spain and Ireland and whether there was an association in the minister's mind between the two cases. Couve de Murville replied: `il n'y a aucun rapport entre les deux cas.'54
40. Cremin, on receipt of the ambassador's report, wrote to Whitaker on 6 March that the Taoiseach regarded Couve de Murville's suggestion as `reasonable' as did the other secretaries.55 The outcome of the subsequent Council meeting was deemed to be satisfactory by senior Irish officials in Brussels. They were told, however, that the Council did not have sufficient information on the Irish case and a meeting on 11 May was suggested between Irish civil servants and the heads of the permanent representation.56
41. Biggar also learned that things were going rather slowly with the British application, a position supported by the Irish Ambassador in London, Hugh McCann. The latter reported on 9 March on an interview with the British Minister for Agriculture, Christopher Soames, who brought up the subject of the negotiations indirectly:
`He went on to add, however, that it was clear from his talk with Mr Pisani, the French Minister of Agriculture, that the French had greedy eyes set on the big food market in Britain. No doubt, the French would look on us as a source of competing agricultural surpluses and that they would probably wonder what they had to gain from our membership of the EEC'.57
42. The Irish Ambassador in Bonn reported his conversation with the German Secretary of State in charge of Economic Affairs at the Foreign Office, Herr Lahr:
`To my disappointment, Herr Lahr spoke along the same lines as he had done when Messrs Whitaker and Cremin were here in September last. For instance, he repeated his thesis that it must still be decided what kind of connection---full membership or association---would really be in our interest'.
43. Lahr, referring to the political aspects of the EEC, said that they had no doubts about the Irish attitude in world affairs and they knew our reasons for not joining NATO. But he said that the Irish application had not been dealt with in any precise examination. He thought that, by the Summer, the Irish government would be able to get down to serious discussions.58
44. Dr Whitaker and other senior officials spent the first two weeks in April doing preparatory work on the Irish case. Dublin received the list on the 18th from Ambassador J.M. Boegner, head of the French Permanent Representation. On 4 May 1962, the departmental secretaries met to review final text of the answers.59 On the day of the delegation's departure, 10 May, Lemass gave another strong pro-EEC speech to the Irish Management Institute. The press communique, issued after the exchanges in Brussels, gave very little information to the Irish public on what had taken place in Brussels on 11 May. It merely recorded that under the presidency of Ambassador J.M. Boegner the committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States of the European Economic Community met, in the presence of representatives of the Commission, with a delegation of senior Irish officials led by Dr T.K. Whitaker, Secretary of the Department of Finance. The meeting took place in `an atmosphere of frank cordiality and mutual understanding'.60
45. The delegation returned home confident that the questions had been answered adequately.61 An 18-page memorandum was prepared for government reviewing the progress of the application to date and providing details and an analysis of the consultations in Brussels on 11 May.62
Disappointments during Summer 1962
46. There was to be no real movement on the Irish application until Autumn. But during the early part of the Summer, Irish diplomats reported on their high level contacts in Britain, Germany and France. On 25 June, the new Irish ambassador to Bonn, Brian Gallagher, was received by Chancellor Adenauer. The latter started off by assuring the envoy that there was a great amount of goodwill in Germany for Ireland. Regarding the new applicants for membership, the chancellor said that there were extremely difficult negotiations in progress with the British at the present time, and he thought that it would still take a long time before those difficulties could be solved. He himself felt that the connections between Britain and the overseas countries of the Commonwealth, and especially with Canada, Australia and New Zaland, were important and valuable, and he would not wish to see them broken. It would no doubt be necessary to taper off gradually the economic preferences. The position was also somewhat complicated by reason of the fact that the issue was not only solely between Britain and the Six. The Unites States also had a view in the matter, which was that, while they were anxious for Britain to become a member of the Community, they were opposed to membership for Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He did not himself at the moment see how the problem was going to be solved:
`In dismissing me, the Chancellor reiterated that Ireland enjoyed great goodwill in Germany and I could take it that this goodwill would be carried over into the field which we had just been discussing'.63
47. In London, Ambassador McCann met the British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, Duncan Sandys, on 27 June 1962 for the purpose of a `general chat'. He told the ambassador that he was still reasonably optimistic about the successful outcome of the British negotiations. He said that there appears to be a general acceptance within the Six that Britain will join the EEC. On the question of the time schedule, he said that while they are still aiming at getting an outline of the package by the end of July, he expected that they will probably have to 'stop the clock' at the end of July and then will probably go on into the middle of August. He felt that the signature would take place at the beginning of the year, entering into force about the middle of next year.64
48. On 29 June 1962, Ambassador McDonald reported to Cremin on a meeting with Premier George Pompidou who said that the British application had taken a good turn (a pris une bonne tournure) since the last conversation with Mr Macmillan. France had never really objected to the British entry into the Common Market, but, for a long time, had greatly doubted that it would be possible, in view of the Commonwealth problem and the general orientation of British interests.65 It was apparent from Mr Macmillan's statement that there was a very serious desire in Britain to come into the Community and France would welcome that, if it should prove possible. It was difficult to say when the negotiation might be expected to end because most of the essentials had still to be solved, Pompidou said.66
49. The committee of departmental secretaries, having had access to both reports from Paris and London, met in Dublin on 3 July where Cremin stated that the permanent representatives had given a favourable opinion on the Irish application. Cremin would arrange to meet the ambassadors from the member states to convey to them the Irish hope that the Council would deal favourably with the application at its meeting on 23 July, and that Ireland would then proceed to negotiations proper on the same status as the United Kingdom and Denmark. He would emphasise to them that Dublin had refrained from pressing its case to date because the government was conscious of the preoccupations of the Council, but the point had now been reached where further delay in proceeding to the negotiation stage would occasion disappointment and misrepresentation in the public mind.
50. Cremin said that there were many indications that if the British case were disposed of favourably, the Six would be ready to proceed speedily with the other applications. It would be wise to prepare for that eventuality by considering at that time possible 'fall back ' positions in the event of it being represented to Dublin that one or other of its desiderata constituted an obstacle to admission. Dr Whitaker said that if the council accepted the Irish application in principle there would probably be a formal meeting at ministerial level to open the negotiations which would then proceed at deputy level with a further meeting at ministerial level at the end of the negotiations. He felt that it was unlikely that the government would be confronted by negotiations in September. More probably, he said, they would commence in October but as the notice might be short it would be desirable to be fully prepared.67
51. But disappointment was again in store for senior Irish officials. On 11 July 1962 Ambassador Biggar phoned the Dutch diplomat, J. Linthorst Homan who confirmed that, contrary to expectations, the Irish application had not been placed on the agenda of the meeting of Permanent Representatives held the previous week, nor had the application been discussed outside the agenda. But Biggar was assured that it was definitely on the agenda for the meeting of 12 July and that the decision had been taken to put the Irish application on the agenda for the Council meeting of 24 July. Biggar also learned later from his sources, however, that the Irish application was unlikely to get a sympathetic hearing at that meeting.68
52. Dr O'Sullivan had a full account of the meeting of 12 July from a senior diplomat of the Netherlands' Mission. He was told that when the Dutch head of mission had approached the chairman of the Permanent Representatives, Signor Venturini, he discovered that the Ireland case was not on the agenda. The item was then included on the insistence of the Dutch representative. At the meeting, Venturini prefaced the opening of the discussion on the Irish case somewhat along the following lines: `Have we not some doubts about the Irish on economic and political grounds---they are not members of NATO'. The Netherlands representative said the Irish application had reached the Council before that of the Danes and that of the Norwegians. The French permanent representative read from a prepared note and took the line that because of Ireland's economic dependence on the British market, there would be little point in proceeding with consideration of the Irish application until the situation in regard to the British negotiations was a good deal clearer than at present. He also mentioned the existence of some doubts in his delegation about Ireland's capacity to meet the full economic obligations of the Rome Treaty. [The French at one stage suggested that the Irish case be referred back to the Commission for more detailed study.] On the whole, the French delegate felt that it would be better to postpone discussion on the Irish case until after the summer recess. That suggestion was supported by the chairman who said that the Six had not yet reached agreement in regard to neutral countries.
53. The German delegate said that while Bonn was fully satisfied that Ireland should be treated as a serious candidate under article 237, he would not object to the postponement of consideration of the Irish case until the autumn if that was the wish of the majority. The Netherlands representative again intervened to urge that it was unrealistic to delay consideration of the Irish case because of her economic dependence on the British market. 69 With no real consensus at the meeting of the heads of the Permanent Representation, Ambassador Biggar reported to Iveagh House following the 24 July Council meeting on his interview with the President of the Council, Colombo. The ambassador was told bluntly that the Council had no time to go into the Irish case in detail. They had instructed the permanent representatives to continue their study of the case and to report in the middle of September with a view to the consideration of the matter at an early meeting of the Council. Colombo added that that was in no sense an unfavourable reflection on the Irish case.70
54. Ambassador Biggar, attempting to convey the difficulties which procrastination would mean on domestic political opinion, said that the council's failure to give a decision would be a great disappointment to the Irish government and could well have a disturbing effect on public opinion. He pointed out that the Irish application had been made a year ago and stressed the difference in the status of the Irish application as compared with those of Denmark and Norway. Colombo said that he understood the Irish position perfectly and that everyone was full of sympathy for Dublin but the view of the Council remained that the application had not yet been fully examined. He said that it was impossible for the council to reconsider the matter before the summer. Biggar, attempting to salvage something from the situation, sought a reassurance that there was no fundamental objection to the application. Colombo, while not being able to speak for the Council, felt himself that that was the position.71
55. Lemass and senior officials met to review the situation. The matter was discussed in cabinet on 31 July 1962. There was consensus, both at cabinet and senior official level, that action had to be taken to remove the doubts which lingered in Commission and in the capitals of the Six regarding the political objections to the Irish application. It was decided immediately to seek an opportunity for Lemass to meet Hallstein.72 Biggar, asked to make an appointment, reported on 14 August that Hallstein's office had phoned stating that he was unable to accept an invitation to dine on 15 September at the embassy because he would not be in Brussels. The Taoiseach called Cremin to see him on 16 August and Lemass wondered whether there would be any reasonable pretext for his [the Taoiseach] being in Strasbourg at the same time as Hallstein was attending a meeting of the Council of Europe. Cremin explained that it would be possible for him to attend, if invited to do so, but that no invitation had been received. It would be necessary for the Taoiseach if he were to be present, to speak. Lemass replied that a speech could be 'rather risky'. He also opposed the idea of sending a letter to Hallstein. Lemass, however, felt that something could be achieved by Biggar going to see Hallstein and giving him an aide memoire covering the points involved. Cremin expressed the view that that would be a possible compromise solution.73
56. Biggar's opinion was sought on the proposal. He argued by return on 22 August 1962 that the submission of an aide memoire might have 'unfavourable consequences'. That idea was temporarily shelved when another avenue of communicating the Irish position presented itself in early September 1962.74 At the invitation of the Irish Council of the European Movement, 15 leading Continental journalists arrived in Dublin to be briefed on the Irish application and to write about the changes in society and politics. This initiative was undertaken with the full and active cooperation of the Irish government. Arriving on 3 September, they were given wide access to government and to senior civil servants.75 They attended a press conference given by Lemass on 5 September. Given the detailed nature of the replies, it is probable that the questions were submitted in advance. The Taoiseach used the opportunity to provide the most frank answers to the substantative questions which had preoccupied, if that is not too strong a term, senior EEC officials and leading politicians of the Six regarding Ireland's commitment to the political union. Asked about Irish membership of NATO, he replied:
`We made our application for membership of the EEC in the light of the Bonn declaration which indicated that the applications were welcome from countries which accepted the political aims of the community and their proposed method for realising them. ... We do not wish, in the conflict between the free democracies and the communist empire, to be thought of as a neutral. We are not neutral and do not wish to be regarded as such, even though we have not got specific commitments of a military kind under any international agreement'.
57. On the possible failure of British application, Lemass replied:
`We did not make our application for membership of the European Community conditional on the success of the British application as Denmark and Norway have done. If the negotiations with Britain should fail we would, nevertheless, wish to pursue our application provided it was economically possible for us to do so. That would, of course turn upon the question of the relations that would, in such circumstances, exist between Britain and the European Community'.76
58. Despite the controversial nature of the remarks in a domestic Irish context, Lemass received strong support from the national dailies. An editorial in the Irish Independent, on 6 September 1962, commenting on the fact that Ireland was not a member of NATO, stated
`... that should not be interpreted as implying that Ireland is a reluctant suitor. ... Our Government has accepted, without reservation, the principle of political unification expressed in the Bonn Declaration. It must be emphasised that this is commitment to a principle, not to details which are as yet unknown'.77
59. The visiting Continental journalists were given high-level access to government ministers and to senior civil servants. They were wined and dined and they returned to their respective countries where they wrote an article, and a series in some cases, about the Irish situation. These were republished in the Irish Times in the first two weeks in October. Ludwig Gelder, of Die Welt, wrote of Lemass's qualifying clause in his statement about joining without England `provided that this is economically possible for us' that emphasis had to be laid on the `provided that' as signifying a `comprehensive neutralisation of the courageous main clause by the sub-ordinate clause'. But he added:
`The declaration of the Irish Premier may to this extent be regarded less as a real declaration of intent than as a gesture which nevertheless has political weight. For it lets it be known that the Irish art of politics is not purely a bread and butter matter. It is not only along the tracks of its biggest customer that Ireland, for better or for worse, directs its steps to Europe. Dublin regards adherence to the growing European Community not least as a political end in itself, and by no means only as a problem in mercantile arithmetic'.78
60. That was precisely the message Lemass wished to direct towards Brussels and the capitals of the Six. The articles emphasised that the Irish were prepared to enter the EEC even if the British application failed. Secondly, the journalists stressed Lemass's positive attitude towards NATO and the defence of Europe. The text of the press conference was circulated widely to senior Commission officials and the foreign ministries of the Six throughout September. Biggar reported that he had seen Spaak on 18 September and the ambassador had been told to see the Belgian deputy foreign minister. Fayat appeared to be impressed when he was shown the text of Lemass's press conference.79 Ambassador McDonald called to the Quai d'Orsay on 19 September 1962 where he learned that the French had already read the reports of the press conference.80
61. There was discussion in Dublin in mid-September about the idea of following up the distribution of the text of Lemass's press conference with the sending of an aide memoire to Hallstein in anticipation of the Council meeting on 27 September. However, senior officials in Finance and in Foreign Affairs successfully argued against such a demarche on the grounds that (a) it might revive old misgivings about Ireland's economic capacity and (b) Hallstein might take the line that any such document should be addressed to the governments of the member states. It was decided, instead, that Ambassador Biggar would request an interview with Hallstein and simply speak from a prepared note. Hallstein saw Biggar on 20 September when he spoke in general terms about the international situation. Hallstein was delighted at the recent success of de Gaulle's visit to Germany between 4 and 9 September81 and of the meeting between de Gaulle and Adenauer. It demonstrated the desire for Franco-German reconciliation and their determination to avoid any possibility of a future war was far more deeply and sincerely felt than even the German press suspected. Hallstein regarded it as a veritable plebiscite for peace and friendship. Whatever about his euphoria about the German visit of General de Gaulle, he was quite non-committal about the Irish situation. 82
62. Only the very sanguine in Dublin would have expected anything significant to emerge from the meeting of the Council on 27 September 1962 on the Irish application. Irish diplomatic sources had been favourably impressed by the reaction in most of the capitals of the Six concerning the Irish application; but the French were identified in Dublin as being the major problem and that proved to be the case. Couve de Murville told his fellow ministers at the Council that he had no objection in principle to the Irish application but that he had to refer back to Paris for instructions. There was no alternative but to adjourn the item until the following meeting.83
63. Had Lemass and other senior politicians been more experienced in the ways of EEC affairs, there would have been less need to exhibit concerned. Whitaker's strategy of "dignified calm", outlined on 5 March, was a prudent one. But it was difficult to follow when the government needed a 'success' in Europe in order to forestall further domestic political criticism of its performance. Convinced that he could overcome the remaining doubts in the minds of the foreign ministers of the Six should not his trip to Brussels on 18 January have an impact, the Taoiseach now looked favourably on the suggestion of a tour of the European capitals. Lemass, who was going to the opening of the Second Vatican Council on 11 October, saw that as an opportunity to extend his trip to visit the other capitals of the Six. That was a poor pretence.
64. Space does not allow a detailed explanation of Lemass's tour of a number of the capitals. He visited Brussels, Rome, Paris and Bonn. Upon his return to Dublin, Lemass knew that the Six would agree on the admission of Ireland to negotiations. But he was also aware that formal talks would not begin with Brussels until negotiations had first been concluded with Britain. In the final week in October, the Council agreed in Brussels to the opening of negotiations on the Irish application at a date to be fixed by agreement with Dublin and the governments of the Six. Lemass gave that news to Dáil Éireann on 30 October.84 While he faced a series of questions from the opposition, he refused to give much detail about his trips to the capitals of the Six.85 He remained, as ever, economical with his information.86 Lemass recorded the goodwill shown to the Irish application by everyone with whom he had come in contact. Because of the absolute priority which the Six had accorded the British application it was `thus unlikely that substantative negotiations with Dublin would begin for `some months'. Failure of the British application would `create an entirely new situation for all concerned and one about which it would be impossible to make any useful conjecture' at that time. When pressed by Dillon, Lemass speculated that British accession might occur on 1 January 1964.87
65. A meeting of departmental secretaries reviewed the Irish position on 13 November. Cremin, addressing a number of the remaining problems, said that Britain was Ireland's main market, and he gained the impression from his [the French Foreign Minister's] remarks that he intended to write off the Six as a market for Irish exports. Cremin felt that viewpoint would come up again later. He also told his fellow secretaries that Adenauer had been extremely friendly, giving a dinner in honour of the Taoiseach and attending the dinner given by the Taoiseach. The reception accorded the Taoiseach in all the countries had been very friendly. Nowhere was there any indication that some form of preferential association was contemplated for Ireland. The only critical note was that sounded by Sig Cattani [secretary general of the Italian Foreign Ministry] who, although well disposed, was inclined to look at matters from the Community viewpoint and seemed to say that Irish entry to the Community was not as simple a matter as his Italian colleagues appeared to think. Cremin added that he had heard from Dutch sources that Hallstein had said that it was not clear what would happen to other countries besides Britain. Cremin felt that that seemed to be a retreat from what he had previously said to the Taoiseach.
66. However, having achieved their medium term objective, it was a question of watching and awaiting the outcome of the British negotiations. In January 1963, de Gaulle's veto on British entry put Irish membership out of reach.
67. It would take another ten years before Ireland was accepted as a member of the European Economic Community. Lemass, who was in declining health, resigned suddenly in 1966 at the age of 67. Taoiseach for only seven years, he did not live to witness Ireland's admission to the EEC. He retired from Dáil Éireann in 1969 and died in 1971. Dr Whitaker wrote of him appreciatively some years later:
`One can, however, safely assert that this pragmatic nationalist, who had erected the high tariff wall in the 1930s to shelter Ireland's infant industry, would have been happy to see it razed to the ground in return for the benefits to Ireland of membership of the Community. He would have been gratified that many of the 'infants' were strong enough to make their way against Continental as well as British competitors'.88
68. The Irish Times in editorial described Seán Lemass at the time of his death as `a mould breaker and a mould maker'.89 While he had found it hard to abandon the safe shores of protectionism, Lemass was not so rigid as to be unable to evaluate the opportunities which membership of the EEC offered Ireland. While the 1962 application failed, it signalled the death knell of the policy of protectionism, marked the consolidation of Monnet-style rational social and economic planning, and proved to be an irrevocable commitment to the achievement of Irish membership of the EEC. The political and administrative experience gained in handling the 1962 application, finally, demonstrated the prudence of the diplomacy of 'dignified calm' a diplomatic style more often aspired to than practised by Dublin during 1962. That earlier experience provided a new generation of diplomats and veterans alike with a valuable case study by which they could measure tactics and performance when, less than a decade later, they negotiated Irish entry into the EEC.