No. 326 NAI DFA 19/97
Extracts from a report from Art O’Brien to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
on activities of Paris Legation
Paris, 21 March 1936
GENERAL REPORT OF THE ACTIVITIES OF THE LEGATION FOR THE YEAR
The year 1935-36 was marked by a number of staff changes which had an effect on the general working of the Legation.
On the 2nd August, the Commercial Attaché3 was transferred as Minister Plenipotentiary to Madrid and has not so far been replaced. On the 4th October, the Chief Clerk4 died suddenly. He was replaced by the present Chancellor5 only on the 10th January 1936. On the 20th December the Irish clerk-shorthand typist, who had recently returned from five weeks special sick leave, resigned from the service for the purpose of getting married.
These changes had naturally a certain impairing effect on the efficient working of the Legation, particularly in the last quarter of 1935, when, for most of the time, the entire staff of the Chancellery consisted of the Secretary and one shorthand typist.
The absence of a Commercial Attaché was severely felt, as, since August 1935, there was a considerable increase in the volume of trade work with France and Belgium, particularly the latter. The Secretary had to go to Brussels on three occasions for discussions on butter and cattle. In the circumstances that then existed, in regard to this market, it would have been desirable for him to have gone on other occasions for the more effective settlement of certain questions, but the volume of work to be done at the Legation made his absence from Paris impossible.
The absence of a Chief Clerk was also a serious handicap, as it threw all the routine and minor clerical work on to the Secretary. The work of the Chief Clerk is so varied and voluminous, that, efficiently done, it represents a very-fully-occupied whole time job in itself. The same applies to the work of the Commercial Attaché. The pressure of work already referred to will accordingly be readily appreciated. That the work of the Legation has nevertheless been comparatively so well done is due to the assiduous work and constant long overtime of all members of the Staff.
The Legation is now in its seventh year and, as time goes on, its existence comes more and more to the notice of Irish nationals resident in France and Belgium and other persons who, for various reasons, are interested in Ireland.
This had led to a great increase in 1) passport consular and notarial work (details given on attached sheet),6 2) trade enquiries, 3) applications for tourist literature and general information, 4) requests from Irish nationals for advice and assistance.
On the trade side, the Legation has continued the efforts of previous years to improve the commercial relations between Ireland and France and Belgium. Relations with France began to show an improvement in the beginning of 1936. Up till then, all official and semi-official efforts of the Legation to improve the marketing conditions and increase the trade in certain Irish products met with the double obstacle of French Government policy and the reduced purchasing power of the French people.
The French Government's favourable trade balance, as against Ireland, will be appreciated from the fact that for the 12 months ending December 1935 France exported to Ireland goods to the value of £355,288 and imported from Ireland goods to the value of £56,674. This 7 to 1 balance has been explained time and time again to the Government Departments interested and it has been frequently pointed out that such an economic state of affairs could not be allowed to continue. All possible pressure was employed and threats of economic reprisals were made. In these conversations, however, the Legation was greatly hampered by the fact that the threats were never taken seriously, as none of them were even partially carried out. French policy accordingly remained adamant up to recently and the general line taken was that the 7 to 1 position must be accepted as an immutable fact and that any further concessions accorded to Ireland must be on a reciprocal basis. The point was also advanced by French departments concerned that they were greatly handicapped in their freedom of action by political influences particularly as the general elections will take place shortly. The parliamentary deputies representing the various French home products interests are at the moment very active to impress upon their potential constituents that they are doing everything to protect their interests.
Accordingly the deputies who represent the fishing and farming interests are doing their best to reduce as far as possible the imports of farm, fish and agricultural products.
All this is only a temporary difficulty which, it is hoped, may be more easily overcome after the elections.
Visits to Paris of the French Minister and the French Commercial Attaché in Dublin were availed of by the Legation to induce them to assist the Legation by semi-official representations in our favour.
It is hoped that all outstanding matters and particularly the unfavourable trade balance between the two countries may be brought to a satisfactory conclusion through negotiations and a formal agreement.
[signed] Art O'Briain