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When Harold Wilson came to power in 1964 he was committed to changing Labour’s Irish policy, something which had been set in stone since the Second World War. Ireland’s neutrality and later her decision to leave the Commonwealth and establish a Republic led Labour’s leaders to distrust Dublin as much as their Conservative opponents did. However, before the war Labour had adopted a more benign stance towards Ireland and her leader, Eamonn de Valera. This was demonstrated when, in April 1938, the Government of Neville Chamberlain agreed that the three Atlantic naval ports, the so-called Treaty ports retained by Britain because they were seen as vital to her defence since 1921, should be handed over to Eire. This deal, which was supposed to usher in an era of friendship and cooperation between Britain and Ireland, was welcomed by Labour leaders who congratulated Chamberlain on his success. Labour at that time considered de Valera’s approach reasonable. He had not taken the South out of the Commonwealth and they were sympathetic to his vision of a united Ireland.
KeywordsPrime Minister Labour Government Labour Leader Labour Minister Retaliatory Action
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