Volume 6 1939~1941

Doc No.

No. 199 NAI DFA Legal Adviser's Papers

Memorandum by Michael Rynne (Dublin)

Dublin, 24 June 1940

Appreciation of the Situation 24th June 1940

1. France and Germany appear to have made armistice terms extraordinarily satisfactory from the French point of view. Although France was beaten to the ropes, capitulated unconditionally, and helplessly allowed French soil to be almost completely overrun, the terms come to at Compi￿e are vastly more reasonable than those which were imposed by the Allies in 1918 on a German Army still entrenched in France. Then it was the vanquished who withdrew and the victors who occupied by treaty German land which they could not invade by force. Now, the defeated French people will have the satisfaction of seeing their victors withdrawing out of a fertile part of France which they conquered only a few days ago.

Other vital conditions, regarding French naval and other Armaments, the French merchant fleet etc., are similarly better than even the most sanguine Frenchmen would have hoped for and, of course, compare very well indeed with the harsh terms of the 1918 truce.

2. Possibly the Italian Armistice terms may prove a disappointment, but probably they will not be allowed to impair the promising basis of a new Franco-German rapprochement.

3. Whether the creation of a puppet French Government in London, with its inherent threat of the guerre ￿utrance, assisted the French to obtain relatively good terms, is a point on which no one can speak with any certainty. Apart, however, from that hypothetical advantage, the Reynaud 'Committee' is clearly calculated to prove dangerous to the future welfare of the French people at home. If the Committee survives, it may well be used to justify an attempt to oust France from her Colonial possessions, to sink her returning fleet and to wage ruthless war on the 'rebellious' mother country.

4. If the foregoing gloomy forecast were to materialise there is but little doubt that the legitimate French Government would be compelled to range the country on the side of the 'Axis' in order to prevent France and her Empire from going down finally and completely with Great Britain.

5. From our point of view, it is to be hoped that the Reynaud Committee is merely a passing 'stunt' (such as was the fantastic plan of Franco-British Union according to which France was to be absorbed into the British Commonwealth of Nations). Should the new puppet regime be allowed to function with British financial and military support, we will be forced to take the view that Britain has ceased to bother about world-opinion.

The moment that Britain overtly betrays her former ally to the extent of driving her into the enemy camp, the United States of America, which is largely pro-French, will be split from top to bottom. Britain will thus have proved conclusively that she has ceased to care for American friendship, which admittedly has failed to help her in a practical sense up to now. But if Britain decides to flout American opinion instead of endeavouring to curry favour in the States, Ireland's position becomes much more precarious. This is the aspect of to-day's situation which we must prepare against.

6. Let us acknowledge that up to now, we have, for the best reasons in the world, been inclined to cry 'Wolf, wolf!'. The end has, no doubt, justified the means. We may even argue that a large amount of the evidence which seemed to point in a certain single direction is still uncontroverted. There is no conclusive evidence to prove that all our suspicions were based on a trumped-up case. But we must at this critical juncture take cognisance of a number of contrary indications which must be closely studied in connection with any obvious signs that Britain intends to break with the United States.

7. We must, in other words, visualise a position where a new threat (unlike the old, which was mainly under-sea and from the air) will take the form of land and sea invasion. Against sea invasion we are helpless, that is to say, we do not have to fight. Sea invasion will draw air attack from the other belligerent and our main task in that event will be to take cover. Land invasion, however, will compel us to act at once. If we do not do so, others will and the horrors of another civil war may add to the disaster.

Hence, we should take every possible preparatory step at once to diminish the risk of troops entering this country, at least from Northern Ireland.

It should not be impossible in a few days to mine all roads and railways leading to the Six Counties and to render much of the intervening country impassible. Apart from the danger of invasion (and consequent fighting) being made more remote in that way, the political reactions of such a determined step to secure Ireland's integrity would be good. Our potential invader would, at least, suspect we were in earnest and perhaps hesitate before risking our resistance.