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Saturday, June 8, 2019

US Senate Presses Paris Peace Congress to Consider Irish Republic, June 6, 1919

On June 6, 1919, the US Senate passed a resolution by a 60 to 1 vote, “earnestly requesting” the Paris Peace Congress give a hearing to the Irish representatives who wished to present the case of Irish freedom.  The resolution was introduced by Indiana Senator William Borah.

At issue was the British Government’s refusal to allow EamonDe Valera and his colleagues to travel to the post-World War I conference in Paris to state their case for an independent Ireland.  

Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts made a forceful speech just before the vote, threatening that the Senate would intervene in foreign relations if US President Woodrow Wilson remained silent on the issue. 

Senator David I. Walsh of Massachusetts added an amendment to the senate resolution:

Resolved: That the Senate of the United States express its sympathy with the aspirations of the Irish people for a government of its own choice.”

Meanwhile in Paris, Frank P. Walsh, Edward Dunne and Michael Ryan, delegates of the Irish Societies in the US, presented a demand to President Wilson that the Peace Conference discuss the Irish question.  Walsh’s demand was accompanied by a 6,000-word report by the Irish Societies during the delegation’s fact finding trip to Ireland.  A copy of the report was also sent to British Premier Lloyd George.

In Boston, an intercollegiate meeting at Faneuil Hall gathered representatives of local colleges, who also urged that the representatives of the Irish Republic be permitted to present their case at the Peace Conference.  The signatories included representatives from Harvard, Tufts, MIT, Boston University, Wellesley College and Radcliffe College.

On June 11, 1919, President Wilson agreed to meet the Irish delegation to hear their plea. At the meeting, Wilson told the delegation that he would do what he could unofficially to bring the Irish question to the attention of the other peace commissioners, according to newspaper accounts.

But according to Walsh, who attended the meeting, Wilson blamed the Irish-American representatives for making “it so difficult by your speeches in Ireland that we could not do it; it was you gentlemen who kicked over the apple cart.”  Wilson said he  had “the deepest sympathy with the Irish cause and added that no small nation had been given a hearing by the ‘big four’ which had decided no hearing should be granted except by unanimous vote.’

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