Volume 5 1936~1939

Doc No.

This volume of selected documents, the fifth in the Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series, covers the development of Irish foreign policy from 1 January 1937 to 1 September 1939.

The volume opens in the aftermath of the passing by the Oireachtas of the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act of December 1936 in a period where the future direction of British-Irish relations was the dominating factor in Irish foreign policy. Throughout 1937 Éamon de Valera, the President of the Executive Council (Taoiseach from 29 December 1937) and Minister for External Affairs, and Malcolm MacDonald, the British Dominions Secretary, together with their senior officials sought to resolve outstanding differences between Britain and Ireland. The receipt in Dublin in November 1937 of a British memorandum on aspects of relations between the two countries in time of war was the catalyst facilitating the commencement of full intergovernmental negotiations in London in January 1938.

The negotiations led to the conclusion of a tripartite Anglo-Irish agreement in April 1938 encompassing the removal of barriers to British-Irish trade, the resolution of the dispute over the land annuities question following a lumpsum payment by Ireland to Britain, and provisions for the handing over of the three British defended anchorages in Ireland to Irish control. De Valera had hoped for movement during the talks towards the ending of partition, but these hopes were in vain.

The probability of a major European war gained strength during the year 1938 and the Irish government and administration seriously anticipated the outbreak of conflict from the time of the Sudeten crisis of August-September. The likelihood of war increased over the next twelve months and Irish missions abroad continually reported local opinions of war and peace and rumours of imminent conflict. By August 1939 most missions were reporting that the outbreak of war was only a matter of days away. The volume ends on the morning of 1 September 1939 when a telegram from the Irish Chargé d’Affaires in Berlin was received in Dublin containing the words ‘hostilities expected immediately’. Irish military preparations for such a conflict were begun too late and as a result the state was almost defenceless when the conflict finally started; despite crippling deficiencies in equipment, weapons and organisation, Ireland would try to defend itself against any invader, but resolved to remain neutral. Volumes VI and VII of Documents on Irish Foreign Policy will cover the course of Irish foreign policy during the Second World War.

* * *

The resolution of outstanding issues in British-Irish relations, ultimately achieved through the April 1938 Anglo-Irish Agreements, and Irish perspectives on the final years of peace in Europe before the outbreak of the Second World War are the central themes in this volume.

In order to discuss the shape of British-Irish relations following the enactment of the External Relations Act and in view of the imminent introduction of a new Irish Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, de Valera and MacDonald met in London on 14 January 1937. There were differences of opinion during the discussions, but the talks contributed to the development of mutual trust and goodwill between the two men and set the basic agenda of defence, economic and financial issues that were ultimately to be addressed through the 1938 Anglo-Irish Agreements.

Before the two could meet again British-Irish differences arose over the coronation of King George VI and the Imperial Conference of 1937. Dublin protested over the wording of the oath to be taken by the King at his coronation on 12 May 1937, leading to Ireland adopting an attitude of detachment and protest towards the coronation ceremony. Ireland also refused to attend the Imperial Conference in London. De Valera turned down a British suggestion that British-Irish negotiations would take place in the wings of the conference.

The Dáil approved Bunreacht na hÉireann on 14 June and it was carried by referendum on 31 July. Although the new Constitution did not come into effect until 29 December the way was now clear for de Valera to move towards trying to resolve the remaining, non-constitutional differences with Britain.

De Valera and MacDonald built upon their January talks by meeting in Geneva on 15 and 16 September 1937 while both were attending the Assembly of the League of Nations. Dublin then used the receipt of a memorandum in November 1937 from the Dominions Office on control of food supplies and the imposition of censorship in time of war as the catalyst to initiate full-scale intergovernmental talks with Britain.

De Valera, accompanied by Minister for Finance Seán MacEntee, Minister for Industry and Commerce Seán Lemass and Minister for Agriculture James Ryan, travelled to London for the first governmental-level British-Irish discussions since 1932 and the talks opened on 17 January 1938. The first plenary session concluded on 19 January. Two further plenary sessions were held: on 23 February and on 3 and 4 March. After this the talks broke up into official-level discussions.

On 22 April the negotiations were concluded and financial, trade and defence agreements were signed in London on 25 April. The annuities question was resolved through a lump sum payment of £10 million by Ireland to Britain, Irish goods were given preferential access to British markets and a tariff commission was established to review tariffs at set intervals, and the three Treaty ports were to be returned to Ireland, a process to be completed by autumn 1938.

Even before the handover of the ports had been completed a much more sensitive area of British-Irish contact had been initiated. In late August and in October 1938 officers from the intelligence branch of the Defence Forces (G2) accompanied by the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, Joseph P. Walshe, and the Irish High Commissioner in London, John Dulanty, began secret talks with the British security services on co-operation and counterespionage in time of war. Though documents relating to these talks can be found in British archives, no documents were found in Department of External Affairs archives. Nor were any documents found relating to the follow-on visit to Dublin in July 1939 by Percivale Liesching of the Dominions Office, though the visit is well documented on the British side. The absence of material on these meetings is probably due to the sensitivity surrounding British-Irish security co-operation. However it is also likely that any records of these discussions were destroyed in Dublin in May 1940 in a move undertaken to eliminate sensitive material in anticipation of a German invasion of Ireland.

As a result of the troubled international climate Dublin attempted in 1938 to initiate talks with the government of Northern Ireland on areas of mutual concern in wartime. Through the Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce, John Leydon, exploratory official-level talks on cross-border co-operation began in April 1938, with the approval of Leydon’s minister, Seán Lemass. These talks came to an abrupt halt in October 1938 after de Valera, in an interview in the London Evening Standard, outlined his views on a federal solution to partition. Leydon attempted to reconvene discussions in November 1938, but the interview had soured the atmosphere and the possibility for meaningful talks on cross-border relations slipped away.

Beyond relations between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain the collapse of collective security and the failure of the League of Nations following the Italian invasion of Abyssinia had a fundamental impact on Irish foreign policy. The League had been a cornerstone of the State’s international relations since Ireland joined in 1923 and de Valera had shown considerable support for the League since 1932. But the failure of the League to counter Italy’s aggression in Abyssinia and its inability to place international law at the core of international relations led Dublin to realise that the League was now of little practical value to Ireland in protecting the State in the event of war. De Valera continued to support the principles upon which the League was founded, but was increasingly of the opinion that neutrality was now the best possible course for Ireland, an option given more substance following the return of the Treaty ports in 1938.

As President of the Executive Council/Taoiseach and Minister for External Affairs, Eamon de Valera was the dominant intellectual force behind Irish foreign policy in the late 1930s. Strengthened by the vigour of de Valera’s robust approach to Ireland’s international relations, the Department of External Affairs consolidated its power during this period. Though it remained small in size, its position in the Irish administrative system was now one of complete control over all aspects of Ireland’s external interests. It had overcome the turf wars with the Department of the President, with a truce holding between Walshe and the Secretary of the Department of the President, Maurice Moynihan, over the limits of the jurisdictions of their departments.

External Affairs and the Department of Industry and Commerce developed a close working relationship in the late 1930s, a situation due in large part to the need for both departments to work together on trade aspects of the 1938 Agreements and also owing to the personal relationship between Walshe and John Leydon, the Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce. In addition, Frederick Boland, Assistant Secretary at External Affairs from 1938, had spent from 1936 to 1938 heading the foreign trade section at Industry and Commerce and this deepened the working relationship between the two departments.

By contrast, the relationship between External Affairs and the Department of Finance remained functional. James J. McElligott, Secretary of the Department of Finance and head of the Irish civil service, maintained his close relationship with the Treasury in London as can be seen below in his handling of the financial aspects of the 1938 Agreements.

The structure and personnel of the Irish diplomatic service remained relatively static in the period covered by DIFP Volume V. De Valera remained Minister for External Affairs and Walshe remained Secretary of the Department of External Affairs. De Valera’s tactical reliance on Walshe to implement his grand strategy of Irish foreign policy continued as Walshe undertook high-level missions to London and the Vatican on de Valera’s behalf in 1937 and 1938.

The Irish High Commissioner in London, John Dulanty, remained the central figure after de Valera in all aspects of British-Irish relations. Twenty-one documents printed below, mainly confidential reports on British-Irish relations written by Dulanty, come from files found in the autumn of 2005 in the basement of the Embassy of Ireland at Grosvenor Place in London. An almost complete set of confidential reports covering Dulanty’s years as High Commissioner (1930-49) make up a sizeable portion of this collection. Until their discovery few of Dulanty’s pre-1941 confidential reports had been located. It was assumed that they had been destroyed as part of a haphazard destruction of material in the Department of External Affairs on 25 May 1940 that was undertaken to remove sensitive documents in anticipation of an imminent German invasion of Ireland. For the period covered by DIFP Volume V the sequence of confidential report files from this new collection is incomplete. Only the files for 1937 were located.

The senior staff of most missions abroad remained unchanged between 1937 and 1939. Dulanty remained in London, Francis (Frank) Cremins in Geneva, Charles Bewley in Berlin, William J. B. Macaulay at the Holy See, and Leopold Kerney in Madrid. In Paris Art O’Brien retired in 1938 to be replaced by Seán Murphy, ending Murphy’s eleven years as Assistant Secretary at Headquarters, and in the same year Robert Brennan was moved to Washington. Michael MacWhite left Washington to establish Ireland’s only new foreign mission in the period covered by this volume when he was posted as Minister to Italy in mid-1938. Though John Hearne was appointed High Commissioner to Ottawa in June 1939, he did not take up office until September 1939, after the period covered by DIFP Volume V.

The most problematic of these staff members was Charles Bewley, Minister Plenipotentiary at Berlin. Known for his anti-Semitic views and his admiration of the Nazis, Bewley had by 1937 ‘gone native’ in Germany and made no attempt at hiding his virulent anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi outlook. The sentiment in Bewley’s despatches was reinforced by a clash of beliefs with de Valera and of personalities with Walshe.

Much of Bewley’s reporting to Dublin from January 1937 to January 1939 was destroyed in May 1940, while virtually all the records of the Irish Legation in Berlin were lost when British bombing during an air raid in November 1943 destroyed the premises. Consequently, there are large gaps in the sequence of Bewley’s reports in this volume. There is very little in the volume on Irish relations with Germany in 1937 save some correspondence on the new Irish Constitution and on the nature of British-Irish relations. What is clear from a further document covering concerns over the Berlin Legation accounts is that Dublin was aware of Bewley’s unsuitability to remain in Berlin.

The reader will be left largely in the dark as to the exact contents of Bewley’s reporting through 1938, but a report on Kristallnacht has survived owing to the fact that it was filed separately to the files that were destroyed. The topics covered by Bewley’s missing 1938 reports, as recorded in the register of incoming letters in the Department of External Affairs, have been reproduced as an appendix to this volume in order to give some impression as to other themes covered.

Bewley was informed of his recall on 27 February 1939 and told that his period as head of mission in Berlin would end on 31 July 1939. He replied to Walshe on 10 March that he was not prepared to take up a post in Dublin, but was instructed to report to the Department of External Affairs on 3 August. He failed to report as ordered and was given until 11 September to explain his absence, having been judged to be absent without leave from 3 August. Bewley submitted his resignation on 11 September, de Valera considering it retrospective from 3 August.

William Warnock temporarily replaced Bewley in Berlin. It had been anticipated that Thomas J. Kiernan would replace Bewley and the agreement of the German government for Kiernan’s appointment was obtained. The outbreak of the Second World War prevented Kiernan’s appointment and Warnock remained in Berlin until 1943.

A direct consequence of the decline of the League of Nations was the change in the role of Frank Cremins, Irish Permanent Delegate to the League. Cremins had replaced Seán Lester at Geneva in 1934. Lester served in Danzig as League High Commissioner to the Free City, returning to Geneva in 1937 as Deputy Secretary General of the League. As the power of the League declined, Cremins’ reports to Dublin focused to a greater extent on the power struggle in Europe between totalitarianism and democracy. Cremins’ reports on European affairs, in particular those on German expansion and Nazi foreign policy, and those of Michael MacWhite from the newly opened Irish legation in Rome on Italian foreign and domestic policy, provide a counterbalance to Bewley’s biased reporting from Berlin, in particular during the last months of peace in Europe in 1939.

Owing to the destruction of documents there are considerable gaps in confidential reporting from missions for 1938 and 1939, in particular from London, Washington and Berlin, but other apparent gaps and absences in the material reproduced below, in particular from Paris, the Holy See and Madrid are due to the indifferent quality of reporting. Art O’Brien in Paris proved unequal to the task of reporting on European affairs from the French capital, though his annual reports from Paris do show the heavy level of activity at the Irish Legation. Much of his confidential reporting was devoted to summaries of newspaper articles and is not suitable for publication. The Irish Minister to the Holy See, William J. B. Macaulay, whilst being an ably informed insider where Vatican affairs were concerned, did not report in significant detail on wider European affairs. Leopold Kerney, Minister to Spain, was out of necessity largely concerned with the civil war in that country.

The Irish Minister to Spain was something of a thorn in Dublin’s side in so far as he sought Irish recognition of Franco prior to the Nationalist victory in the civil war. Dublin maintained that diplomatic relations were with states, not their governments, and de Valera and Walshe sought not to take sides in Spain, supporting instead the continuing work of the International Nonintervention Committee. Kerney nevertheless continued to needle Dublin to recognise Franco as head of state. In February 1939 Dublin finally recognised the Burgos government as the de jure government of Spain and Franco as head of state. Kerney’s work in Spain, whether from Saint Jean de Luz, San Sebastian or Madrid, required him to keep in close contact with the warring parties in order to seek the release of Irishmen interned by both sides. The repatriation of minors was of considerable concern to Dublin, but the greatest portion of Kerney’s time was devoted to seeking the release of Frank Ryan. Despite ongoing contacts with the Spanish authorities Kerney’s efforts proved unsuccessful and Ryan remained in custody.

At Headquarters the most important change to the small high-level group of de Valera, Joseph Walshe, Seán Murphy, Sheila Murphy and John Hearne, that ran Irish foreign policy was the return of Fredrick Boland to External Affairs in 1938 as Assistant Secretary on Seán Murphy’s departure to Paris as Minister. As a technocratic career civil servant Boland was an important counterbalance to Walshe’s mercurial and at times overzealous nature. The appointment of John Hearne as High Commissioner at Ottawa resulted in the promotion of Michael Rynne to the position of Legal Adviser. Thus the group of Walshe, Boland, Rynne and Sheila Murphy, de Valera’s most senior foreign policy advisors during the Second World War, was in place before the conflict broke out. Further down the ladder of diplomatic rank, the late 1930s saw the rise of John Belton, of William Warnock, of Con Cremin, who would later become Secretary of the Department, and of Denis Devlin, though Devlin’s career would be cut short by his death from leukaemia in 1959.

Walshe’s role as Ireland’s most senior foreign policy expert remained unchallenged in the run-up to the Second World War. In the documents printed below the reader will be aware of lengthy periods where Assistant Secretary Seán Murphy stood in for Walshe; this is evident in particular in Murphy’s signature of letters for Walshe and his undertaking of matters in British-Irish relations normally reserved to Walshe alone. In the aftermath of the 1938 Agreements Walshe took a long period of leave during which he travelled to Egypt and Sudan. This trip was a long holiday, but only in part; Walshe was also engaged in a semi-official capacity, meeting officials in both countries on de Valera’s instructions. Two of his letters to de Valera have been printed in this volume, giving an insight into Walshe’s unusual personal relationship with de Valera.

The relationship between de Valera and his most senior advisers is further to be seen in the documents below in the marginal notes and annotations to documents. Sheila Murphy, Walshe’s Private Secretary, circulated documents sent to the Secretary, to Assistant Secretary Seán Murphy and his successor Frederick Boland, John Hearne and, following Hearne’s departure to Ottawa, to his successor Michael Rynne. Their initials are to be found on many documents. The additional annotation ‘Read to President’, or after December 1937, ‘Read to Taoiseach’, show how de Valera’s poor eyesight made it easier for documents requiring a decision from him to be read to him and the notations give the reader an insight into which documents Walshe and others considered to be of most importance to bring to de Valera’s attention.

Though External Affairs remained a small department through the 1930s, this volume shows the energy within the Irish diplomatic service and among the makers of Irish foreign policy in the last years of peace in Europe before the outbreak of World War Two. The senior figures managed the development of policy under de Valera’s direction and a number of talented junior diplomats were rising through the system. Developing British-Irish relations as relations between two sovereign states remained at the core of Irish foreign policy between 1937 and 1939. War brought a wider challenge, that of proving sovereignty through independence of action, and exercising independence of action through practical neutrality. This would require not simply good relations with London, but skilful and inventive diplomacy with belligerents on all sides in the Second World War.

Records of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and other archival sources

Until the passage of the National Archives Act (1986), government departments in Ireland were under no compulsion to release their archives. The Department of the Taoiseach, however, has voluntarily released material since the mid-1970s. The Department of Foreign Affairs records have been released on an annual basis since 1991.

In the late 1920s the Department of External Affairs established a numerical registry system for filing its papers. Under this system a list of subject categories corresponding to the main areas of the department’s work was drawn up and each subject category was assigned a unique number code. For example the number code 26 was allocated to files and papers dealing with the League of Nations. Individual files within each number category were assigned a unique sub-number. File 26/95 deals with the Irish Free State’s candidature for the League of Nations Council in 1930. This registry and filing system, known colloquially as ‘number series’ files, was further developed in the mid-1930s. The existing two-digit prefixes had the number 1 added to them with, for example, the previous 26 series becoming the 126 series and so on. A further development took place in the late 1930s with the 1 being replaced by a 2, thus 126 became 226.

The most sensitive information held by the Department of External Affairs was kept in the Secretary’s Files series. This collection began in the 1920s, with files being designated S with a number following (not to be confused with the separate Department of the Taoiseach S Series files.). In later years A and P series were created, as well as a PS series for the Private Secretary to the Secretary. These series were held under lock and key in the Secretary’s office and were only made available to lower ranking officials under certain conditions. The S Series was a target for widespread destruction during the wartime invasion scares of 1940.

Material generated in Irish missions abroad is held at the National Archives in Dublin in the Embassies Series collection. For the late 1930s this material covers the missions in London, Washington, Geneva, Brussels, the Holy See, Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Rome. Due to weeding and wartime destruction the Embassies Series is very patchy for the inter-war years. The collections for Madrid and Paris are the most complete. The archives of the Irish Legation in Berlin were almost completely destroyed after a bomb hit the chancellery during an air raid in 1943. Unfortunately, the majority of files of the Irish Embassy in London (Irish High Commission from 1923 to 1949) were shredded in the 1950s. Similarly, very little survives from the Washington Embassy for the period covered by this volume. Where files do survive there is an understandable degree of overlap with Headquarters’ number series files.

The main files from the Department of the Taoiseach (known from 1922 to 1937 as the Department of the President of the Executive Council, or simply ‘the Department of the President’) are known as the ‘S-files’ series. They begin at S1 and progress numerically (S1, S2, S3 etc.) in a roughly chronological order. In contrast to the 1920s, when foreign policy matters appeared regularly on the agenda of the Executive Council and Cabinet, with de Valera as President of the Executive Council and Minister for External Affairs there was a tendency for the members of the government to leave foreign policy decisions solely to him.

Readers of Volume V will notice that both Executive Council minutes and Cabinet minutes are published. While in common parlance the Executive Council (as the Government of the Irish Free State was known from 1922 to 1937) and the Cabinet are considered to be the same body, there was a difference between the two. The Executive Council (from 1938 referred to as the Government) was the term given to members of the Government meeting under the functions devolving upon it by provision of the Constitution or the law. The Cabinet was the name given to the Government meeting to decide matters of policy as the main policy-making organ of the State. The distinction between Government decisions and Cabinet decisions was abolished with the commencement of the Eighteenth Government on 9 March, 1982.

The editors have reproduced four documents from The National Archives, Kew, London. The first document (No. 51) is a facsimile of the letter from John Dulanty to Malcolm MacDonald enclosing a copy of the 1937 Constitution; the second (No. 104) is the original top copy despatch sent by de Valera to MacDonald on 24 November 1937 which initiated what became the negotiations leading to the 1938 Anglo-Irish Agreement; the third document (No. 239) is the original of a letter from de Valera to MacDonald sending MacDonald best wishes on his return to the Dominions Office on 31 October 1938; and the final document (No. 355) is de Valera’s note dated 31 August 1939 to Neville Chamberlain indicating that Ireland intended to remain neutral in the event of war.

Editorial policy and the selection of documents

The Executive Editor is responsible for the initial wide choice of documents. These documents are then assessed periodically by the five Editors in order to select the most appropriate documents for publication. Documents are prioritised in terms of importance on a one to five scale and are processed by the Editors in geographical and thematic tranches. The documents in this volume are presented in chronological order based on date of despatch. The text of documents has been reproduced as exactly as possible. Marginal notes and annotations have generally been reproduced in footnotes; annotations have however sometimes been reproduced in the body text when to have reproduced them as footnotes would have reduced the clarity of the document from the reader’s point of view. Where possible the authors of marginal notes have been identified. There have been no alterations of the text of documents nor have there been any deletions without indication being given of where changes have been made. Nothing has been omitted that might conceal or gloss over defects in policymaking and policy execution. All material reproduced was already open to the public at the relevant repository.

At some points in the text the footnotes refer to documents that were ‘not printed’. Either the document referred to could not be found or the document was either routine or repeated information found elsewhere in the documents selected and so was not printed. Where it was impossible to decipher a word or series of words, an ellipsis has been inserted or the assumed word inserted with an explanatory footnote. Spelling mistakes have been silently corrected, but capitalisation, punctuation, signatures and contemporary spelling have in the main been left as found in the originals and have been changed only where the sense is affected. Additions to the text appear in square brackets. Original abbreviations have been preserved and either spelt out between square brackets or explained in the list of abbreviations. Where a sender has signed a document, either in original or copy form, the word ‘signed’, in square brackets, has been inserted. A similar practice has been followed with initialled or stamped documents, with the word ‘initialled’ or ‘stamped’ inserted in square brackets as appropriate. In all cases without an insertion in square brackets, the signature or initials were typed on the original document and are reproduced as found. Where an unsigned copy of a letter is reproduced, the words ‘copy letter unsigned’ have been inserted in square brackets. The Editors have at all times tried to confirm the identity of the senders and recipients of unsigned letters, and in cases where identity is impossible to establish a footnote has been inserted to that effect. In correspondence, English was the working language of Irish diplomats. It is evident from the archives that written communication in Irish was only used for documents of symbolic national importance, although Irish was the spoken language of a number of diplomats, particularly Joseph Walshe, and many officials were bilingual.

In the weeks leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War foreign missions were instructed to send ‘situation reports’ to Dublin in Irish on the likelihood of war breaking out as seen from their particular post.

In correspondence, the Irish language was otherwise more commonly used for salutations and in signatures. In many cases there was no consistent spelling of Gaelicised names and in the DIFP volumes many different spellings of the same name and salutation in Irish occur. These have not been standardised and are reproduced as found. The authors of the documents reproduced tended to refer to Britain as ‘England’ or made no distinction between the two geographical entities and the Editors have not thought it necessary to insert (sic) at all relevant points throughout the volume.


The editors would like to thank all those who were involved in the production of Volume V of the Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series. The assistance of the following is particularly acknowledged.

At the Department of Foreign Affairs: Dermot Gallagher, Secretary General of the Department; Anne Barrington; Susan Conlon; Alma Ní Choigligh; Stephen Dawson; Brendan Fitzpatrick; Karl Gardner; Clare Hanratty; Andrée Kearney; Christina McCormack; Nuala ní Mhuircheartaigh; Daithí O Ceallaigh, Ambassador to Great Britain; Aidan O’Hara; Adrian O’Neill; Miriam Tiernan and Maureen Sweeney.

At the Royal Irish Academy: Dr Michael Ryan and Professor James Slevin (successively Presidents of the Academy); Patrick Buckley, Executive Secretary of the Academy; Dr Howard Clarke, Secretary of the Academy; Dr Úna uí Bheirn, Eagarthóir of the Academy’s Foclóir na Nua-Ghaeilge; James McGuire (Managing Editor) and Dr James Quinn (Executive Editor) of the Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography; Sanchia O’Connor and Dr Kate O’Malley.

At the National Archives: Dr David Craig, Director, for his generosity in providing access to the facilities and collections; Ken Hannigan, Keeper; Mary Mackey and Tom Quinlan.

At the University College Dublin Archives (School of History and Archives): Seamus Helferty; Ailsa Holland; Professor Michael Laffan; Kate Manning; Dr John McCafferty and Orna Somerville.

At The National Archives, London: Natalie Ceeney, Chief Executive of The National Archives, and Paul Johnson, Manager of the National Archives Image Library. We thank The National Archives for permission to reproduce the image on p. 62 from material in its care.

At the Institute of Public Administration: Declan MacDonagh; Eileen Kelly; Hannah Ryan and Tom Turley.

We would like to thank the MacWhite family for permission to consult and reproduce material from the papers of Michael MacWhite held at the University College Dublin Archives.

We would also like to thank Commandant Victor Laing of Military Archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin; Helen Litton, and Maura O’Shea.

Catriona Crowe
Ronan Fanning
Michael Kennedy
Dermot Keogh
Eunan O’Halpin
23 June 2006




Destruction of files and documents dating from 1938 to 1940 by the Department of External Affairs

On 25 May 1940 Eamon de Valera ordered that files and documents that the Department of External Affairs feared would fall into German hands in the event of a German invasion of Ireland be ‘confidentially destroyed’ by officials in the Department of External Affairs. The files known to have been destroyed came from the 100-Series and 200-Series general registry files and the entries relating to these files in the departmental file registers were marked with ‘CD 25/5/40’ against their record. Details of these ‘confidentially destroyed’ files are given below. The files represent only a small portion of the 100-series and 200-series. There are also large gaps in the 100series due to files migrating to the subsequent 200-series and from the 200-series into the later 300-series. It is clear from the titles and chronological scope of the destroyed files that they often contained extremely important material and material which is irreplaceable for the historian of Irish foreign policy.

Of these files the most significant are the confidential report files:
119/1: Confidential reports from Berlin, 14 Jan. 1937-7 Dec. 1938
119/2: Confidential reports from Rome, 12 Jan. 1937-30 Dec. 1938
119/5: Confidential reports from San Francisco, 4 Jan. 1937-20 Dec. 1938
119/7: Confidential reports from Washington, 12 July 1937-3 Jan. 1939
119/8: Confidential reports from Paris, 18 July 1938-12 Jan. 1939
119/8A: Confidential reports from Paris, 18 July 1938-12 Jan. 1939
119/10: Confidential reports from Geneva, 4 Feb. 1937-28 June 1938
119/17: Confidential reports from St Jean de Luz, 21 Aug. 1937-28 Nov. 1938
219/1: Confidential reports from Paris, 1939
In many cases it has been possible to locate copies of the documents destroyed in the ‘Embassies Series’ records for the relevant Legation or in personal papers, but the destruction of the Irish Legation in Berlin during an Allied air raid in November 1943 and the previous destruction in May 1940 of confidential reports from Berlin for 1937 and 1938 has left a large gap in the material reproduced in this volume relating to Irish reporting on events in Germany during the war years. In an effort to partially overcome the loss of the material in file 119/1, section four below reproduces, as taken from the register of correspondence for file 119/1, the topics and subjects of confidential reports from Charles Bewley in Berlin for 1937 and 1938.

It seems likely that considerable portions of what are now known as the Secretary’s ‘S’ Series files were also destroyed in 1940 or thereabouts. At the time these files were known as ‘Secret’ files and were kept in the custody of the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs and the Private Secretary to the Secretary.

The appendix below is divided into four sections. The lists of destroyed material have been reformatted for the online edition:

1: 100-Series (Sections 101-147). List of files destroyed on 25 May 1940.
2: 200-Series (Sections 201-247). List of files destroyed on 25 May 1940.
3: Other collections of files known to have been destroyed in whole or in part.
4: Titles/Subjects of confidential reports by Charles Bewley contained in 100-Series file 119/1 and destroyed on 25 May 1940.

1: 100-Series (Sections 101-147). List of files destroyed on 25 May 1940

101/64: Issue of British nationality certificates, 1937-8
101/228: Proposed legislation dealing with public display or interference with foreign national flags, 1938
101/324: Polish citizenship laws, 1938
102/1: Non-recognition of Saorstát Éireann (SÉ) passports by British Consuls abroad, 1937
102/19: Visa fees and regulations for aliens unknown visiting Irish Free State (IFS)
102/30: Passports withheld for travel to Russia, 1937
102/31: British suspect – Index list, 1937
102/31A: British suspect – Index list, 1937
102/31B: British suspect – Index list, 1938-9
102/39: IFS citizens desiring British passports, 1937-9
102/42: Passport and visa fees: Special list, 1925-31
102/55: Prolongation of stay in IFS of certain German nationals, 1937-8
102/104: SÉ nationals in Germany and German nationals in SÉ, 1937-8
102/129: Permission for Herr Klaus, German National to remain in SÉ, 1937
102/205: Case of Abdul Hadi Bey: Palestinian national, 1937
102/302: Visas: Ireland and Germany/Austria, 1938
102/302A: Visas: Ireland and Germany/Austria, 1938
102/302B: Visas: Ireland and Germany/Austria, 1938
102/408: Case of individuals who arrived at Baldonnell from Austria, 1938-9
102/427: Permission for German student to attend school in Waterford, 1938
102/572: Naturalisation of German nationals as Irish citizens, 1938-9
102/657: Visa to Dr Stefan Lendt, 1939
105/3: Coronation of King George VI, 1937
105/5: Coronation of King George VI, 1937
105/17: Coronation of King George VI, 1937
105/18: Germany’s claim to Colonies, 1937
105/27: Co-ordination of policy re exhibitions limited to members of the Commonwealth, 1937
105/79: Visit to Paris of George VI, 1938
105/83: Arrest and imprisonment of Eamon Donnelly, 1938
106/13: Hydrographical services in SÉ, 1937
106/19: Lands occupied by British forces in Ned’s fort and vicinity, 1937
106/20: Norwegian territorial waters, 1937
106/22: Submarine cables in Cork harbor, 1937
106/31: Inspection visit by British to SÉ coastal defences, 1937
106/42: Repairs: Fort Carlisle, 1937
106/48: Defence of Merchant Shipping, 1938
106/49: Visit of foreign war vessels and aircraft to British ports, 1938
111/3: Purchase of ammunition, guns etc from Britain, 1937
111/4: London Naval Treaty: 1930, 1937
111/6: Disarmament (Geneva), 1937-8
111/18: Small arms factory, 1937
111/35: Torpedo aircraft, 1938
115/100: Aircraft factory, 1937
115/430: Aircraft fuel oil production, 1938
115/460: Alleged campaign by Jews in Ireland to boycott German goods, 11 Apr. 1938
116/95: Request for Foreign Office publication dealing with privilege of documents, May 1937
117/60: Irish-German political relations, 5 Oct. 1938-2 Dec. 1938
119/1: Confidential reports from Berlin, 14 Jan. 1937-7 Dec.1938
119/2: Confidential reports from Rome, 12 Jan. 1937-30 Dec. 1938
119/5: Confidential reports from San Francisco, 4 Jan. 1937-20 Dec. 1938
119/7: Confidential reports from Washington, 12 July 1937-3 Jan. 1939
119/8: Confidential reports from Paris, 18 July 1938-12 Jan. 1939
119/8A: Confidential reports from Paris, 18 July 1938-12 Jan. 1939
119/10: Confidential reports from Geneva, 4 Feb. 1937-28 June 1938
119/17: Confidential reports from St Jean de Luz, 21 Aug. 1937-28 Nov. 1938
119/38: Bewley interview, 17 Mar. 1937
119/41: British Consular instructions, 20 Sept. 1937-12 Nov. 1937
119/47: Report on work of Berlin Legation, 1937-38, 4 Apr. 1938
119/52: Confidential reports from Rome (Quirinale), 16 May 1938-19 Dec. 1938
119/59: Paris: Belgian Foreign policy, 20 Oct. 1938-10 Jan. 1939
121/20: German overflights of Irish territory, 29 Jan. 1937-5 May 1937
121/35: Irish Army officers attendance at RAF courses, 19 Mar. 1937-30 Apr. 1937
121/36: Lufthansa facilities in SÉ for transatlantic flight, 1937
121/39: Permission for Zeppelin overflights, Mar. 1937
121/75: Experimental German transatlantic flights, 15 July 1937-12 Nov. 1937
121/180: Interdepartmental Committee on Air Raid precautions, Oct.1938-July 1939
121/189: Permission for George Charles Avon to enlist in RAF, Dec. 1938
124/64: Re-occupation of the Rhineland, July-Dec. 1937
127/66: Blockade of Germany during 1914-18 War, 13 July 1937
127/140: Agreements between Hungary and the Little Entente, 24 Aug. 1938,
127/145: Irish Friends of the Spanish republic: non-intervention, 19 Oct. 1938
127/147: Germany’s claim to Colonies, 25 Oct. 1938
130/7: London: Electric Power invention of A. J. Haldane, 17 Feb. 1937-18 Mar. 1937
134/48: Communication from Mr Richard Monahan MD, Switzerland, 10 Sept. 1937
134/58: Political situation in Germany (1938), Feb. 1938
135/21: Important public functions in UK: measures to prevent landings of undesirable aliens, 1937
138/50: Position of the Church in Germany, 1937
138/221: Position of Dr Mahr, National Museum, in connection with his membership of the Nazi Party, 1938
141/14: General O’Duffy’s Irish Brigade for Spain and other volunteers from Ireland, 1937-8
141/70: Desertion of Private R. Stringer from Irish Army and charge for wearing British uniform, 1938
141/71: Private Looby, Irish Army Reservist, application for enlistment in RAF, 1938
141/74: Particulars of service of Private Thomas Franklin in Irish Army, 1938
141/94: Enquiry of Commander K. Mitchell MVO re posts for ex RN officers in Irish services, Aug.-Nov. 1938
141/99: M. Hayes, RAF, position in event of war, 1938
141/112: Communication re National Defence and Recruiting, Oct. 1938
144/7: Resolutions for release of Irish political prisoners in SÉ, 1937-8
144/41: Enquiry re John Scanlon, former Flight Sergeant RAF, July 1938
144/49: Application of Civic Guard for post Palestine Police, 1938

2: 200-Series (Sections 201-247). List of files destroyed on 25 May 1940

202/12: Permits for admission of German and Austrian nationals to Ireland
202/13: Issue of visas for Ireland by British consuls
202/19: British suspect list
202/19A: British suspect list
202/19B: British suspect list
202/50: Issue of passports by British representatives in countries where there are Irish representatives
202/71: Theft of passports from the Imperial Iranian Legation at Berlin
202/75: Siemens Ireland Ltd, employment of aliens
202/77: Copies of visas for the United Kingdom issued by British passport control officers, Paris,
to Germans who will probably visit Ireland
202/89: Ernest Klaar: suspect false visa application
202/93: Mutual abolition of visas, agreement with Czechoslovakia
202/111: Palestinian visa regulations (original file destroyed)
202/118: Procedures regulating visas for alien refugees in Ireland who wish to proceed to Britain and dominions or colonies
202/135: Visa certificates of origin for Turkey
202/136: Passport visa requirements of foreign countries
202/149: Alien refugees: channel of enquiry
202/156: Iraqi visa and passport requirements
202/199: Helmut Joseph, visa application
202/53: Facilities for renewal of passports of Irish citizens
202/311: Alleged unauthorised issue of passports to persons desirous of leaving Germany
202/408: Alois Ludwig Rutter and Bertha Rutter, visa application
202/550: Transjordan nationals: visas and passports for Transjordan
202/709: Aliens employed by Irish Sugar Company
202/842; Reciprocal check between British and Irish authorities on the issue of visas to aliens
205/4: Press comments in Germany on Irish affairs
205/12: Messages of greeting to King George (first part confidentially destroyed)
205/77: Alleged meeting of protest of Irish republicans at Hotel Seville in New York, July 1935, against policy of government of Éire
206/39: Seaplane floats observed by SS Hibernia off Kish lightship
206/42: Fisheries vessel Fort Rannoch
206/59: Supply of Admiralty charts
206/61: Transfer to German ownership of MV Sophia
207/60: German-Romanian commercial agreement
208/76: Deportation from Ireland of Germans (some papers destroyed)
211/1A: Brandt mortar and ammunition, importation from France
214/8: Information re Irish affairs in German press
216/24: British government war establishment. Publications from Dept of Defence
218/31: Position of former consul and staff of Czechoslovak consulate in Dublin
219/1: Confidential Reports, Paris, 1939
219/1A: Anglo-American luncheon, Paris
219/1B: Germany’s peace proposals
220/8: Customs facilities for Czechoslovak consul (papers prior to 25 May 1940 destroyed)
220/75: Entry duty free for Czechoslovak consul (papers prior to 25 May 1940 destroyed)
227/22: European situation: temporary file (first part confidentially destroyed)
232/77: International tobacco congress under auspices of International Federation of Technical Agriculturalists
233/13: Transfer of wireless stations from British to Irish government
241/1: Facilities in connection with visits of Irish Army officers to British Admiralty
241/8: Visits of officers of Dept of Defence to London in connection with purchase of gas masks and ARP equipment
241/18: Purchase of stores by Dept of Defence from British War Office
241/37: Course for gas detection officers
241/71: Direct correspondence on technical matters between Dept of Defence and Woolwich Inspection Officers
241/91: Position of civil servants and employees of local authorities who wish to join the Irish Defence Forces and also Reserves in the British Army
241/99: Visit of Irish Army officers to War Office
241/120: Enquiry by Commanding Officer Irish Guards re Michael McArdle

3: Other collections of files known to have been destroyed in whole or in part

S Series Secretary’s Files (an unknown quantity of these files was destroyed)
Berlin Legation (RAF raid, Nov. 1943)
London High Commissioner’s Office (shredding in the 1950s due to water damage)
Washington Legation (unknown reason)
Geneva Office (some confidential files for 1939-40 destroyed by Frank Cremins)

4: Titles/Subjects of confidential reports by Charles Bewley contained on file 119/1 and destroyed on 25 May 1940 (including Berlin reference number)

119/1, 14 Jan. 1937 (43/33): German troops in Spanish Morocco
119/1, 26 Jan. 1937 (43/33): Political report – European Situation
119/1, 5 Feb. 1937 (43/33): Reminders re letters of 14th and 26th January
119/1, 8 Feb. 1937 (43/33): Position of Ambassador von Ribbentrop
119/1, 15 Feb. 1937 (43/33): Reminder re letters of 26th January and 5th February – instructions re SÉ govt’s position vis a vis Spanish Civil War
119/1, 5 Mar. 1937 (43/33): Instructions re SÉ govt’s position vis a vis the Spanish Civil War
119/1, 5 Mar. 1937 (43/33): German claim for colonies
119/1, 14 Apr. 1937 (43/33): Relations between German govt and Catholic Church
119/1, 25 May 1937 (43/33): New govt in Valencia: English proposals for truce in Spain
119/1, 4 June 1937 (43/33): Germany’s attitude to UK and France in connection with Spain
119/1, 18 June 1937 (43/33): Coronation picture shown under patronage of Ambassador of Great Britain and Ireland
119/1, 23 June 1937 (43/33): General political report
119/1, 7 July 1937 (43/33): Question of colonies and raw materials
119/1, 23 Aug. 1937 (43/33): Expulsion of an English journalist Mr Ebbuth from Germany
119/1, 16 Sept. 1937 (43/33): German Policy: Nuremberg Parteitag
119/1, 20 Sept. 1937 (43/33): General European situation
119/1, 8 Oct. 1937 (43/33): Reference to colonial question in Hitler’s speech at harvest thanksgiving
119/1, 11 Oct. 1937 (43/33): Results of visit of Mussolini to Berlin: summing up of ‘BZ am Mittag’
119/1, 28 Oct. 1937 (43/33): Political report
119/1, 15 Nov. 1937 (43/33): Adhesion of Italy to German-Japanese pact
119/1, 13 Dec. 1937 (43/33): Relations between Germany, Italy and Japan
119/1, 31 Jan. 1938 (43/33): Visit of Yugoslav Minister President Stojadanovic to Germany
119/1, 7 Feb. 1938 (43/33): Changes in German Army command, Govt and Diplomatic corps
119/1, 14 Feb. 1938 (43/33): Reports in Foreign Press re ‘crisis’ in Germany
119/1, 21 Feb. 1938 (43/33): Chancellor’s Reichstag speech, Feb. ’38
119/1, 11 Mar. 1938 (43/33): Announcement of plebiscite in Austria
119/1, 14 Mar. 1938 (43/33): Austria – intervention by Germany
119/1, 18 Mar. 1938 (43/33): Austria – report re
119/1, 1 Apr. 1938 (43/33): Austria – report re
119/1, 13 Apr. 1938 (43/33): Austria – report re result of plebiscite
119/1, 25 Apr. 1938 (43/33): Successful termination of English-Italian negotiations
119/1, 3 May 1938 (43/33): German–Czechoslovakia situation
119/1, 1 June 1938 (43/33): German–Czechoslovakia situation report re
119/1, 2 June 1938 (43/33): German–Czechoslovakia situation report re
119/1, 28 June 1938 (43/33): International situation
119/1, 9 July 1938 (43/33): German minority in Czechoslovakia – copy of ‘Volkabund’
119/1, 29 July 1938 (43/33): Position of the Sudeten Germans
119/1, 14 Sept. 1938 (43/33): Check of false news disseminated by press: mention of Taoiseach
119/1, 22 Sept. 1938 (43/33): Article entitled ‘Hitler’s Germany provides work for them’
119/1, 28 Sept. 1938 (25/32): City of Limerick not landing its cargo at Bremen
119/1, 12 Oct. 1938 Anti-Jewish feeling in Czechoslovakia
119/1, 27 Oct. 1938 (10/34): Regulations governing admission of Jews into Germany
119/1, 18 Nov. 1938 (76/36): Anti-British article in Borsen-Zeitung ref. Black and Tan period in Ireland
119/1, 30 Nov. 1938 (13/38): German press on British atrocities in Palestine
119/1, 7 Dec. 1938 Confid. re dinner to Mr Pirow – report re
119/1, 1 Feb. 1939 (43/33): Hitler’s speech in the Reichstag 30/01/1937
119/1, 1 Mar. 1939 (43/33): General political report