Northern Ireland

Winston Churchill 'hoped for a united Ireland'

Winston Churchill
Image caption Churchill talked about his "warm feelings" for Ireland

Winston Churchill expressed his hopes for a united Ireland in 1946, according to The Irish Times.

The paper's political editor, Stephen Collins, reports that Churchill was speaking to the Irish ambassador to Britain, John W Dulanty.

The comments were made just a year after his criticism of Irish prime minister (Taoiseach) Eamon de Valera.

It concerned Ireland's policy of neutrality during World War Two.

According to the paper, Churchill told Mr Dulanty about his warm feelings for Ireland after the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.

Mr Dulanty laid a wreath in memory to the fallen of the two world wars. It was the last time an Irish ambassador attended the ceremony and laid a wreath until this year, when the current ambassador, Dan Mulhall, resumed the practice.

In a confidential report to the secetary of the department of external affairs, Frederick Boland, after the 1946 event, Mr Dulanty recorded that as he was leaving, he was approached by Churchill, then leader of the opposition, to say he was glad to see him there.

Churchill then went on: "I said a few words in parliament the other day about your country because I still hope for a united Ireland. You must get those fellows in the north in, though; you can't do it by force."

Before saying goodbye and going off to greet the king, Churchill told Mr Dulanty: "There is not, and never was, any bitterness in my heart towards your country."

Five years later, in May 1951, shortly before he began his second term as prime minister, Churchill had a conversation about Ireland with Frederick Boland, who succeeded Mr Dulanty as ambassador in London.

He said he had been thinking of coming over to Ireland to see a horse that he had bought run in the Irish Derby but the horse had died of heart failure.

"I'm sorry. I would have liked to have gone over and I'm sure the people would have given me a good reception - particularly if my horse had won. The Irish are a sporting people," he is reported to have said.

"You know I have had many invitations to visit Ulster but I have refused them all. I don't want to go there at all, I would much rather go to southern Ireland. Maybe I'll buy another horse with an entry in the Irish Derby."

Writing the morning after the reception at the palace, Mr Boland said these were the actual words Churchill had said to him as far as he could remember them.

'Hostile but peaceful'

Some of Churchill's earliest and happiest childhood memories were of the time he spent living in what is now Áras an Uachtaráin - the official residence of the president of Ireland in Phoenix Park, Dublin.

His father, Randolph Churchill, acted as private secretary to his grandfather the Duke of Marlborough, lord lieutenant of Ireland from 1876 to 1880.

Years earlier in 1912, Churchill had supported Home Rule as part of the Liberal government of the time.

He was met by a hostile reception in Larne and Belfast when he came to Celtic Park to speak in support of the Home Rule Bill.

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