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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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