12 FEBRUARY 1937, Page 18


[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] SIR,—Your correspondent's enquiry in your issue of the 5th instant raises the most difficult question of the relations of British and Dominion legislation since the Statute of Westminster, 1931, which has also emerged in regard to the royal abdication and the Regency Bill. The issues must ultimately be decided by the Courts. But pending their action the following propositions may be submitted.

(x) Mr. George Bernard Shaw always has the best of both worlds. He is in the United Kingdom and in those parts of the Empire where British legislation affecting nationality prevails a British subject. Can he be blamed for securing Irish nationality—the term has the sanction of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1935, which received the royal assent—when the alternative was that he would be an alien in his beloved place of birth ? The Irish Free State cannot deprive him outside the Free State of his birthright as a subject of the King.

(2) The position of persons who were prior to the passing of the Irish Nationality and Aliens Act of 1935, British subjects, while within the State, is extremely difficult. In Irish law, of course, they are normally Irish Nationals, but some are aliens. One way of looking at the position is to hold that British courts must regard them as British subjects in general but as deprived of that quality while in the State. It may be held that this view is due to be accepted, as only thus can full effect be given to the Statute of Westminster and the political autonomy of the Free State which it recognises. The point could be neatly settled if a member of the Irish Brigade were arrested and tried in England on the 'Sabre that he com- mitted in the State one of the acts forbidden to British subjects by the Foreign Enlistment Act, 1870. It may be that he would be held not to be within the terms.

(3) Some, of course, contend. that an Irish national outside the. State is not in British law a British subject. The answer is that in such cases there are conflicting legal provisions and' that British Courts should follow their national law.

One question may be permitted. Will the Dominions Secretary explain under what doctrine of constitutional law he discusses with the President of a semi-republican State, behind the back of the duly constituted Government of Northern Ireland, the .possibility of transferring that territory to the control of the Irish Free State ? Is it not his clear duty to explain that paramount considerations of constitutional usage preclude him, in view of the change in the status of the Irish Free State, from discussing with the head of its Government any issues affecting the autonomy and security of Northern Ireland ? Does not the present procedure constitute a deliberate in- centive to the Free State to keep continuously pressing its case on the British Government in the expectation that sooner or later it will find a ministry susceptible to such pressure ? Is it not time that it should be made dear that the road to union runs through Belfast, and not London ? We owe full respect to the autonomy of the Free State, but we are equally bound since 192o to respect that of Northern Ireland.—