No. 335 NAI DFA Minister's Office Files (1924-25)

Desmond FitzGerald to James McNeill (London)

DUBLIN, 6 November 1925

My dear High Commissioner,

I have received your private note of the 2nd,1 and read its contents without any marked degree of cheerfulness. The consoling feature about it is that it is a year hence and not sooner. If I were an optimist I might say to myself that with a year's grace one has plenty of time to look for somebody to take your place, but, the last few years have knocked any optimism I ever had out of me. Of course I knew that if we announced to-morrow that we needed a High Commissioner we would have applicants enough to run a dozen Shannon Schemes, all of them able to prove that they were born for the job. But - well you know there are a dozen buts. I might say that it is not a High Commissioner we want but a James McNeill, and where to begin looking for one I haven't the remotest notion. Of course I know that as the proverb says 'a good beginning is half the work' and we began well any way, and we can afford to drop a little, but there is a margin for that drop. And I imagine that we shall be hard put to it to get somebody who reaches even the lower end of that margin.

I am not saying this to flatter you. You know it is true as well as I do. I am saying it merely because it may serve as a basis for argument with you, if we do have to try to persuade you to postpone it even a little longer. Of course I shall only do that if it is absolutely necessary. I know that you took on that most uncomfortable job merely to assist, and I quite understand and sympathise with your feeling that four years has been a fairly long period.

I have only mentioned the matter to Blythe2 so far. I shall mention it to the others the first Cabinet meeting, and we can all be having it in mind and looking round for a successor. You might also think about it yourself. You know what is needed better than I do, but the one quality that of automatically taking the right line - the right line being of course the line that the Government would desire to be taken - is rather hard to find.

This Foreign Representative question is very difficult. You were obviously the one man for London. Paddy MacGilligan, who is probably with you now, has sent me a note confirming my own idea that Professor Smiddy is eminently successful in Washington. Count O'Kelly certainly seems to do well in Brussels. But if all three of you resigned to-morrow I don't know where we would get anybody to fill even one of these posts. As it is I am quite dissatisfied with Paris but have nobody on hand to send there. And if we decide to have a place in Berlin I don't know who would be suitable.

But I mustn't continue in this doleful strain. I think we were lucky to have you for those four years, and you have every reason to feel yourself justified in giving up a position that you never asked for.

When I began this letter I merely meant to try to convey to you how much I appreciate the good fortune we had in having you there in London, and to thank you for that and for the timely warning you are giving us. I will do my best to find somebody during the next year and of course I always have the consolation of knowing that I may be eliminated from my own post before the time arrives.

We can talk the matter over a bit when I see you next. Meanwhile best wishes to you and to Madame3 and to Paddy if he is there with you.


Yours sincerely,
[copy letter unsigned]
Minister for External Affairs

1 See No. 334 above.

2 Ernest Blythe, Minister for Finance.

3 Josephine McNeill.

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