Marking Winston Churchill Day by remembering the British leader's surprising views on Northern Ireland and a United Ireland.

Editor's Note: On April 9 in 1963 Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain, became the second person to become an Honorary Citizen of the United States. Winston Churchill Day commemorates this event.

This honor was bestowed upon him by the 35th President of the United States, John F Kennedy, although Churchill was not present himself at the ceremony, his son and grandson were there for him. To mark the day that's in it we decided to look back at the World War II PM's rather surprising views on Northern Ireland. 

Winston Churchill expressed a strong desire for a united Ireland in 1946 in a meeting with Irish Ambassador to Britain John W Dulanty.

This was despite Churchill being infuriated by Ireland’s neutral stance during the Second World War and his hostility towards Irish leader Eamon de Valera.

Read more: Winston Churchill ordered Black and Tans into Ireland on this day in 1920

Dulanty’s note on the conversation has just been made public in The Irish Times.

Winston Churchill told him, “I still hope for a united Ireland. You must get those fellows in the North in, though, you can’t do it by force.”

In a confidential report to the secretary of the Department of External Affairs Dulanty stated he was approached by Churchill, after the Remembrance event to say how happy he was 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.”

Churchill told Dulanty: “There is not, and never was, any bitterness in my heart towards your country.”

Five years later, in May 1951, Churchill had a conversation about Ireland with Frederick Boland, who had succeeded Dulanty as ambassador. They met at a Buckingham Palace reception and Churchill told him he had wanted to come to Ireland to see a horse of his run in the Irish Derby, but the horse had dropped dead.

Churchill went on: “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.

“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.”

Churchill lived for a time in Ireland in what is now Áras an Uachtaráin, home of the Irish president, where his father Randolph acted as private secretary to his grandfather the Duke of Marlborough, lord lieutenant of Ireland from 1876 to 1880.

Read more: Churchill wanted Irish bombed from the air, refused Michael Collins plea

* Originally published in October 2014.


Shock revelation that British leader Winston Churchill also wanted to visit Ireland.Library of Congress / J Russell & Sons