Volume 5 1936~1939

Doc No.

No. 193 UCDA P150/2183

Handwritten letter from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

Cairo, 2 June 1938

My Dear Sir,
Seán wired me that you had dissolved the Dáil and I felt very glad indeed that you took the inevitable decision without further delay. We all want you to be in a position of sitting back without extrinsic worries and building up the country according to the ideals you have inspired us with. For that you had to be free from anxieties regarding your majority in the Dáil, and I earnestly hope you will achieve your purpose. The omens are all favourable.

I shall be back in Dublin on Wednesday next. I arrive by flying boat in England on Monday but I am going to remain over Tuesday in order to pay a few visits of courtesy to officials who kindly secured me facilities in the Near East.

I had a very long chat with Miles Lampson. He told me, in the frankest manner about his difficulties here, and gave me all the information available about Palestine. His conclusions about the latter country indicate that a proposal for a ten year truce is in the air. The Arabs and Jews will thus have time to come to some understanding. No doubt G.B. will consolidate her position in the meantime with both sides. The policy of divide and conquer is to be abandoned being over worked and too crude to achieve any lasting results. Egypt is taking an increasing interest in Palestine and so far the declarations of the Government have been moderate and wise. The Jewish people are influential amongst all classes here - and they have identified themselves more than any other foreign element with the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

Lampson assumed during his whole talk with me that I had been sent - this year and last - by the Government on a voyage of exploration. He emphasized how enormously important it was for any country interested in world peace to keep in touch with this region of the world. I told him that you encouraged me to travel and keep you informed of conditions wherever I went, that you realized, in particular, the importance of Egypt as one of the chief sensitive areas in the world and were fully conscious of the difficulty of the problems involved in the renaissance of the Jewish and Arab peoples. He spoke very highly of your work at Geneva.

In a quiet way I got confirmation from officials and others of Lampson's statements. Sharara Pasha the permanent head of the Department of Foreign Affairs was very friendly.

He is strongly convinced, as I am, that, in the course of the next few years, there ought to be an exchange of legations between the two countries. There is and there will continue to be a certain similarity of relationship vis á vis G.B. There is an instinctive sympathy for Ireland and Irishmen. Some of them - one a brother of the Minister for the Interior - suggested that we should lend them 200 officers to train their army. Arthur Delaney is the Head of the Broadcasting Stations, and the Egyptians would not have an Englishman in such a key position. I find all concerned favour the idea of concluding a treaty of friendship with us in particular, but also with the other countries associated in varying degrees with the Commonwealth.

They see the advantage of linking up with the individual associated States rather than with G.B. alone. Egypt could form the first unit of the new group which would change the Commonwealth's character and give us an opportunity of sliding quietly out of the King's orbit. I found Lampson so communicative that I mentioned the possibility of Egypt coming into a group more broadly based than the present Commonwealth group. To my surprise he had given the subject a good deal of thought. As he seems to find the Foreign Office as impervious to new ideas as we have found the Dominions Office. He agreed instantly that no red tape or precedent should be allowed to make serious difficulties about the adhesion of separate monarchies or republics to a new Commonwealth.

I feel that an Irish legation here would quickly obtain the good will and confidence of the Egyptian Governt. and I should not be surprised if our influence with them became greater than that of the British Embassy. If that position were realized - and a zealous worker should reach it fairly soon - our prestige and influence here would react favourably on our more immediate position vis-á-vis the British at home. Indeed I cannot keep feeling that there is still a certain 'colonialessness' and absence of personality about our Legations abroad - which make them almost useless as instruments in our fight for recognition of our national distinctiveness, or as factors in our relations with G.B. What is at the root of the evil! Would a six years truce to acquire a complete knowledge of Irish not be a very good tonic for all of them as well as for the service at home. Egypt has unfortunately one great weakness which makes her a C3 state in her relations with G.B. She has no really patriotic leaders and the Service as well as the Cabinet is venal to the last degree. This is recognised by all good Egyptians and they look forward to the time when they will have a Leader who will be simpleminded and ruthless with corruption. Most of the higher civil servants have interests in commercial concerns which they favour at every opportunity to the detriment of the general welfare of the State. They accept either direct bribes, or indirect in the shape of motor cars at reduced prices - houses at a nominal rent etc. In fact they are all - with a few splendid exceptions - very much on the make and their work for the State is neither zealous nor efficient. This appalling defect leaves them completely at the mercy of foreign or private interests and nothing but an extremely strong national movement will afford a remedy. T.G. that movement can be seen in Germ already.

I explored the southern Sinai area with my friend. We drove through desert tracts and river beds to the Holy Mountain some three hundred miles from here. The way lay through Suez, across the Canal and down the Red Sea to Abu Zeneeman1. The scenery through the mountains of Sinai was a fitting setting for the greatest drama of our race. I felt here more impressed on the mountain of the Ten Comdts. than in Palestine. We stayed two nights in the Greek Monastery at the foot of the mountain and discussed age old problems including the procession of the Holy Ghost (on which they were not very enlightening).

The Monastery is 1400 years old. They seem to live outside time, but still not so much as not to know about our new constitution, and the appt. of Dr. Hyde as President. All the hundreds of papers in Egypt in various languages gave this appointment great publicity. In fact the interest displayed in Ireland by everybody one meets here is a constant cause of surprise.

I went to see the Luxor monuments last week and the heat was terrific but with such marvellous beauty on every side one forgets personal discomfort.

With all good wishes for success I remain, my dear Sir, with great respect and esteem.
Yours very sincerely,

1 Abu Zenima.