David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, concerned that violence in the north of Ireland would cause the collapse of the new Northern Ireland administration, organised a meeting in London between Michael Collins and Sir James Craig, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, both to try to stop the IRA violence which Collins had been tacitly encouraging and supporting, and to pressure Craig to provide more protection for Catholics. Craig denied the nationalist assertion that the McMahon killings were part of an anti-Catholic pogrom on behalf of state forces, telling the Northern Ireland parliament that, “no such thing has ever been the policy of Protestants here … The Ulster men are up against, not Catholics but … up against rebels, that they are up against murder, Bolshevism and up against those enemies not only of Ulster but of the [British] Empire”.
The pact was essentially a blend of the proposals of the Belfast Catholic businessmen and those of the Colonial Secretary with certain demands. The peace pact, albeit, detailed and well-intentioned, took too little of the account of the realities of the political situation in Ireland, north and south, at this political juncture. Collins, writing to his fiancée on 31 March, was far from optimistic about the agreement ‘from any point-of-view’.
After discussion the following mutual agreement was reached:
(1) The Boundary Commission as outlined in the Treaty to be altered. The Governments of the Free State and of Northern Ireland to appoint one representative each to report to Mr. Collins and Sir James Craig, who will mutually agree on behalf of their respective Governments on the future boundaries between the two.
(2) Without prejudice to the future consideration by his Government on the question of tariffs, Mr. Collins undertakes that the Belfast boycott is to be discontinued immediately, and Sir James Craig undertakes to facilitate in every possible way the return of Catholic workmen – without tests – to the shipyards as and when trade revival enables the firms concerned to absorb the present unemployed. In the meantime a system of relief on a large-scale is being arranged to carry over the period of distress.
(3) Representatives of both Governments to unite to facilitate a settlement of the railway dispute.
(4) The two Governments to endeavour to devise a more suitable system than the Council of Ireland for dealing with problems affecting all Ireland.
(5) A further meeting will take place at a subsequent date in Ireland between the signatories to this agreement to discuss the question of post-truce prisoners.