Volume 6 1939~1941

Doc No.

This volume of selected documents, the sixth in the Documents on Irish Foreign Policy (DIFP) series, runs from September 1939 to January 1941. Commencing as war began in Europe, it covers seventeen months of grave crisis for Irish foreign policy makers, months in which an invasion of Ireland by either belligerent became a real possibility. Neutrality, hitherto aspirational, had to be implemented in practice. Ireland did not wish to be dragged unwillingly into war.

The execution of foreign policy in Dublin, particularly during the war years, was the product of the close working relationship between a small group of senior officials in the Department of External Affairs: Secretary of the Department, Joseph Walshe; Assistant Secretary, Frederick H. Boland; Legal Adviser, Michael Rynne and Private Secretary to Walshe and custodian of the Department’s secret archives, Sheila Murphy. Under the political direction of the Taoiseach and Minister for External Affairs, Eamon de Valera, the four led Ireland’s diplomatic service through the war. The Department of External Affairs sought to protect Ireland’s sovereignty by emphasising the state’s neutrality to the belligerent powers. Missions abroad – in particular those in London, Berlin, Washington and Ottawa – were central to this process. While Irish diplomats in these capitals were required to report on the events unfolding around them, their primary duty was to protect Ireland’s national interests–in short, to protect Ireland’s international sovereignty as expressed by neutrality. Preventing invasion, preserving neutrality and independence in wartime, became the overriding theme of Irish foreign policy in September 1939 and would remain so until May 1945.

The choice of documents for DIFP VI was challenging for the series editors. Research in 2005 and 2006 for DIFP V had for the first time shown the full extent of the May 1940 destruction of the records of the Department of External Affairs. The editors knew that many essential records central to the explication of Irish foreign policy in the opening nine months of the Second World War had been destroyed on the orders of Eamon de Valera when it was feared that a German invasion of Ireland was imminent. Readers will notice the scarceness in DIFP VI of confidential reports from London from September 1939 to May 1940. They will also be aware of the paucity of information on the specifics of British-Irish relations over the same months. To overcome partially the loss of Irish documents, the editors have included a strictly limited number of British documents from the National Archives, Kew, London. In choosing these documents they have endeavoured to elicit Irish perspectives alone, including documents where Irish views were reported verbatim or where direct speech was reported. From May 1940 the run of material in the Department of Foreign Affairs archives appears to be intact and the editors have not seen the need to undertake further the exceptional inclusions from non-Irish sources necessary for the first nine months covered by the volume.

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September 1939 saw brisk activity in the Department of External Affairs to bolster and consolidate Ireland’s declared policy of wartime neutrality. DIFP VI elucidates the legal and geopolitical basis of neutrality using memoranda drafted by the Legal Adviser at External Affairs, Michael Rynne. While missions abroad reported international reactions to the outbreak of war and speculated as to future possibilities, Rynne and his senior colleagues in headquarters in Dublin divided their responsibilities.

Assistant Secretary Frederick H. Boland was central to the management and development of the policy of neutrality from Dublin. Not only had External Affairs to implement urgently and in a period of crisis an entirely new and untried foreign policy, they also had to plan for possible emergencies including their own evacuation from Dublin, the safety of the Dublin diplomatic corps should hostilities break out in Ireland and how to keep the Irish diplomatic service functioning should Ireland be occupied by belligerent forces. The Secretary of the Department, Joseph P. Walshe, shuttled between Dublin and London in the early months of the war seeking to ameliorate the increasingly fraught nature of the British-Irish relationship. The maintenance of workable relations between neutral Ireland and belligerent Britain is one of the central themes in DIFP VI. Walshe acted as de Valera’s éminence grise during his missions to London, so much so that British officials often thought that Walshe was the Minister for External Affairs. Yet at every critical juncture between September 1939 and January 1941 de Valera took personal control of Irish foreign policy. The reader will observe this at such key moments as the appointment of Sir John Maffey as British Diplomatic Representative in Dublin in September 1939, Dublin’s efforts in early 1940 to gain clemency for those convicted of IRA bombings in Britain, and also the British offer in June 1940 of Irish unity in return for immediate Irish entry into the war. At less critical moments Walshe returned to London to undertake policy on behalf of his minister. Walshe’s long report to de Valera of his visit to London in the days just after the outbreak of war (document No. 15) provides a crucial insight into the development of British-Irish relations in late 1939 and shows Walshe acting on his minister’s behalf in conveying to London de Valera’s often cited ‘certain consideration’ for Britain.

Two significant developments in September 1939 were the communication to belligerent governments of an aide mémoire regarding restrictions on the use of Irish territorial waters on 12 September 1939 (document No. 19) and the appointment of a British Diplomatic Representative in Dublin – agreed by the government on 22 September. Until the appointment of Sir John Maffey there had been no British diplomatic presence in Ireland. With tensions rising between Dublin and London over Ireland’s neutrality – in particular because of Ireland’s refusal to allow the Royal Navy use of naval facilities –the aide mémoire, essential to the exposition of neutrality and which formalised the refusal of facilities in legal terms, was one of the first problems to face the new British Representative. Maffey was to have no honeymoon period.

In London, Irish High Commissioner John Dulanty, under pressure from Winston Churchill – now First Lord of the Admiralty – and from British propaganda accusations that German submarines were using Irish waters for refuelling operations, sought to counter strong political opinion in support of the British appetite for naval facilities in Ireland. However important Dulanty had been in developing British-Irish relations up to September 1939, Maffey’s appointment changed the nature of Irish contact with the British government and administration. De Valera could now deal with London directly through Maffey. While Dulanty’s reports for much of late 1939 have not survived, the continuing central importance to British-Irish relations of his role in London in 1940 both in communicating Dublin’s foreign policy and in reporting on affairs in wartime Britain is clearly apparent.

As in the case of Dulanty, Irish diplomatic representatives remained posted to belligerent states throughout the war. It became increasingly difficult for diplomats to take up new postings and for Dublin to fill vacancies, as was to be the case regarding the appointment of new ministers to Berlin and the Holy See. Communications with Dublin were frequently more difficult than before, the security of diplomatic bags was sometimes in doubt, but reports got through nonetheless, often after delays due to wartime restrictions. Confidential reports from William Warnock and later Con Cremin in Berlin, from Michael MacWhite in Rome and from Seán Murphy in Paris and Vichy provide a picture of the war in Europe that is not always available from other English language sources.

Warnock’s Berlin reports reveal the swiftness of the German blitzkrieg in Poland in September 1939. The obliteration of Poland provoked little overt comment in Dublin. Walshe sent a strictly official, curt note to the Polish Consul General in Dublin which merely acknowledged that a state of war existed between Poland and Germany. By contrast, reports from Berlin and Geneva from December 1939 show considerable Irish interest in the ‘Winter War’ between Finland and Russia. Irish sympathy for the Finns is evident, but so too is the realisation that Dublin could do nothing to support Helsinki.

The ‘Phoney War’ passed with no direct threat to Ireland beyond British pressure and propaganda over the war in the North Atlantic. The months from September 1939 to May 1940 allowed the Department of External Affairs to organise to meet the exigencies of the European conflict and to set out the parameters of neutrality. For Irish diplomats, the most sensitive and dangerous period of the Second World War was without doubt the summer of 1940. The German invasion of France and the Low Countries on 10 May, the eventual fall of France on 22 June and the advance of German forces to the French coast concentrated Irish minds on the possibility of a German invasion of Ireland as part of, or as a diversionary raid leading to, an invasion of Britain.

Irish diplomats in Paris, Berlin, Rome and Geneva sent regular reports to Dublin on the progress of the war in western Europe. As the summer of 1940 progressed, the speed of the German advance across France and the Allies inability to check the Wehrmacht in France and Norway was a common theme in their reports to Walshe in Dublin. Despatches from the Irish Legation in Berlin show how the pressures of war affected ordinary people in Germany and how, from a German perspective, a German victory seemed inevitable in the summer of 1940. Michael MacWhite in Rome was less sanguine as to Italy’s prospects after she entered the war on 10 June 1940. From the United States, Robert Brennan informed Dublin on how American opinion was turning increasingly pro-British and bellicose.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s resignation and replacement by Winston Churchill on 10 May saw British-Irish relations, already tense, take a turn for the worse. In 1938 Churchill had criticised the return of the ports at the time of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. He failed to appreciate the reasons for Ireland’s neutrality and had never fully accepted Irish independence. The fall of France reignited the war in the Atlantic, placing Ireland on the front line of naval conflict through the summer of 1940. The war at sea, the threat of a German invasion and the threat of a British invasion to retake the ports and to deny Ireland to Germany posed imminent threats to Irish foreign policymakers throughout the summer of 1940.

As Britain’s situation worsened following the withdrawal from Norway, the evacuation from Dunkirk and the fall of France, its Irish policy became more dramatic. Former Dominions Secretary Malcolm MacDonald arrived in Dublin on 17 June talking up the possibility of a German invasion of Ireland to de Valera and offering Irish unity at an early date in return for immediate Irish abandonment of neutrality and participation in the war. These proposals were contained in a communication received from MacDonald on 26 June. The extant documents show increasing pessimism in Dublin in the summer of 1940 as to the outcome of the war. Walshe’s gloom was reinforced by reports received from his colleagues abroad. At times appearing close to exhaustion, Walshe’s belief in Britain’s ‘inevitable’ defeat was balanced by Frederick Boland’s cool-headedness. Above all de Valera, supported by the advice of Boland, Rynne and other senior civil servants, believed that Ireland would only suffer by involvement in the war and that, as a small state, her own national interests would hold little weight in the event of either a British or a German victory. The MacDonald offer of unity was rejected by de Valera, a view subsequently confirmed by a unanimous decision of the government on 27 June and communicated to London on 4 July.

The MacDonald mission led to press reports of a possible British-Irish defence agreement, a view immediately squashed by missions abroad on Dublin’s explicit orders, with Brennan in Washington placing particular emphasis on this point to journalists and congressmen. Talks regarding a British-Irish trade agreement were ongoing and what Walshe referred to as Ireland’s ‘position of benevolent neutrality’ towards Britain continued, but no formal position over defence was ever under consideration. External Affairs was closely involved in containing the fallout from a number of damaging British activities in the aftermath of the MacDonald mission as British officers on intelligence missions were picked up on Irish territory by Irish security forces and Walshe had occasion more than once to contact Maffey about alarming movements of British forces in border regions of Northern Ireland.

While defence policy is outside the scope of the DIFP series, it is clear that the Department of External Affairs and Irish Military Intelligence (G2) operated with increasing closeness and synchronicity from the outbreak of the Second World War. The security threat posed by Germans remaining in Ireland and plans to counter a German invasion of the country were common issues for both departments. Amidst the tension of the crucial months of May and June 1940 Walshe at External Affairs and Colonel Liam Archer, the Director of the army’s intelligence section, G2, worked together developing British-Irish relations at official and military level during a period where relations at the highest political level between de Valera and Churchill were increasingly fraught. G2 in effect reported to External Affairs on all aspects of intelligence and security having an external bearing, including the activities and conduct of foreign diplomats in Ireland and their contacts with groups and individuals representing various strands of Irish political opinion.

The fruits of this growing relationship were evident in the defence staff talks of 23 and 24 May 1940 at which Irish and British officials and military met to agree a common strategy to counter a German invasion of Ireland, and in later liaison talks involving senior officers from British forces based in Northern Ireland with Irish military and officials and with de Valera. External Affairs was also closely involved in the largely unsuccessful attempts by the Defence Forces to obtain quantities of modern weapons from Britain for the defence of Ireland.

The threat of a British invasion did not diminish outright after the May talks and British-Irish relations remained difficult for the remainder of 1940. De Valera made it clear that Ireland would fight against any country that invaded her territory, a view repeated emphatically by Irish diplomats, particularly in Britain, Canada and the United States.

Seán Murphy’s 18 June 1940 despatch describing his and his staff’s departure from Paris to Vichy (document No. 194) records the trials of diplomatic representation in time of war. His later dispatches reveal how his relations with Walshe deteriorated rapidly in the second half of 1940. Murphy sought to explain to Walshe that the Secretary could not dictate policy in relation to France based on his personal beliefs and certainly could not tell Murphy and his colleagues how they were to conduct themselves. This strong difference of opinion came to a head in December 1940 and ended when Walshe conceded to Murphy that he had not tried to dictate how Murphy should deal with the French authorities.

Murphy, Cremin and Count O’Kelly de Gallagh, who kept an Irish office open in Paris, also had to deal with an increased number of consular cases. The war brought difficulties for Irish citizens in France. In the course of the research for DIFP VI a number of significant consular cases came to light and the editors have included aspects of them in this volume. While James Joyce was by 1940 a writer of international fame, Samuel Beckett, resident in France for the duration of the Second World War and involved with the French Resistance, was less well known. Joyce sought assistance from Irish diplomats for his daughter Lucia to enable her to travel and Beckett and his family in Dublin were able to stay in contact through the good offices of the Irish mission in Vichy. The needs of these two men were mirrored in the cases of many other Irish citizens who remained in France and in the other countries at war in Europe.

In Geneva, and later in Berne, Frank Cremins provided useful parallels for Ireland from the stance of neutral Switzerland and reported the final chapters in the decline of the League of Nations as his former colleague Seán Lester sought to preserve the remnants of the ailing international institution in his capacity as its Acting Secretary General. Ireland retained only a token faith in the League of Nations during the Second World War. The Irish office at Geneva was closed in 1940 and Cremins transferred to Berne as Ireland’s first representative to Switzerland. Berne was the only new mission opened in Europe during the period covered by this volume. As Chargé d’Affaires in Berne, Cremins was an important conduit of information to Dublin on how neutral Switzerland managed her wartime external relations. Cremins’ office also became an important link in the chain of communications between Dublin and its missions abroad as lines of transmission worsened with the continuing war and with Germany’s increasing dominance over western Europe.

Edouard Hempel, the German Minister to Ireland, had continually emphasised to Walshe since before the outbreak of hostilities that Germany had no intention of violating Ireland’s neutrality. Though Dublin considered the immediate German threat to have declined as July 1940 ended, 17 August 1940 saw the extension of the German blockade of Britain and the waters around Ireland. Irish merchant vessels had already been subjected to German attacks and as the blockade intensified further incidents occurred. By Cabinet decision Irish vessels were to remain unarmed. Warnock in Berlin protested strongly to the German foreign office after the attacks and attempted to explain the vital importance to Ireland of trade with Britain. The difficulty of supplying Ireland during wartime was never far from the minds of policy makers in External Affairs and involved considerable contact with the newly established Department of Supplies. Walshe was friendly with John Leydon, the Secretary of the Department of Supplies, and had worked closely with Leydon and his minister, Seán Lemass, during the 1938 British-Irish trade agreement negotiations.

While the threat to Irish shipping grew, it was at least anticipated owing to German warnings transmitted through Hempel. Proximity to Britain during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz brought a new threat to Ireland. On the early afternoon of 26 August 1940 two German aircraft dropped bombs in County Wexford, opening a new chapter in Irish-German relations. While German aircraft had been overflying Ireland since the early summer of 1940 despite Irish protests to Berlin, this was the first time bombs were dropped and fatalities occurred. Dublin took as strong a line as possible with Berlin on the attack and though compensation was eventually paid, other attacks were to occur. Though these bombings were later agreed to have been mistakes, they began nine months of sporadic attacks that culminated in the bombing of the North Strand in Dublin on 30-31 May 1941, an attack that left thirty-four people dead.

Although Dublin lodged protests in response to all German bombings of Irish territory and at German overflights, Walshe and Boland handled relations with Germany carefully. In their discussions with Hempel both men took pains to explain de Valera’s specific interpretation of neutrality, though Walshe could at times appear gushing, if not unctuous towards the German Minister. A most serious event, one which tested Irish-German relations to the limit, was Germany’s attempt in December 1940 to fly in extra staff for her mission in Dublin. Hempel attempted to gain Dublin’s agreement to fly in three diplomats, known to be military advisers with an intelligence role, to Shannon airport. De Valera refused and tensions heightened as the possibility of Germany using Dublin’s refusal as a pretext for an invasion increased. Though Germany eventually backed down, a subsequent series of German bombings along Ireland’s east coast left some wondering if the raids were other than a mistake.

Neither had the threat from Britain diminished during this period. November and December 1940 saw Churchill again call for the return of the Treaty ports to Britain and a British propaganda campaign in the United States increased pressure on Ireland to abandon neutrality. Attempts by Dublin to highlight Irish concerns, such as partition and neutrality, fell on deaf ears in the United States in this climate. Brennan had, since his appointment to Washington in 1938, assiduously courted Irish-America but he lacked high-powered contacts on Capitol Hill and within the Roosevelt administration. He was unable to make in-roads into the increasingly pro-British mindset in the United States, a mindset that now had little time for Ireland’s neutrality and had no inclination to appreciate the reasons behind Ireland’s stance.

In contrast to Brennan in Washington, Irish High Commissioner in Ottawa, John Hearne, had excellent high-level contacts in Canada. Hearne’s diplomatic skills were put to great effect as he sought to explain Ireland’s neutrality to his Canadian audience. His explanations of neutrality were patiently tolerated, but despite his good relations with Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Canadian opinion remained resolutely unsupportive of Ireland’s stance.

From London Dulanty reported how Britain was bearing up during the Blitz and he sent his own eyewitness reports of life in the British capital under the constant threat of German attack. Warnock tried to report as frequently as possible on day-to-day life in Berlin, but the constraints of reporting by insecure code telegram make his confidential reports much less explicit than the detail Dulanty could report to Dublin verbally or by courier. Murphy in Vichy was under the same constraints as Warnock, but he used couriers where possible to return vivid reports to Walshe.

In his dealings with the Madrid authorities Irish Minister to Spain Leopold Kerney began to act increasingly without specific reference to External Affairs, though he considered he was always acting on general orders from Dublin. This was particularly so when it came to the ‘escape’ of Frank Ryan from Spain into German hands. Kerney’s contacts with the Spanish and the German secret service ensured Ryan’s handing over to German agents, but he was less than comprehensive in reporting the event to Dublin (document No. 277). Kerney was to remain in Spain until 1946; though he and his superiors did not always see eye-to-eye, he endeavoured to harness the diplomatic opportunities which his position in the murky world of wartime Madrid presented.

Irish relations with the Holy See, a state also on the frontline of the European conflict, underwent a significant upset in 1940 as Minister to the Holy See William J. B. Macaulay left Italy for an extended trip to the United States in June on Italy’s entering the Second World War. Macaulay eventually resigned in 1941. Colman O’Donovan, who represented Ireland as Chargé d’Affaires until Thomas J. Kiernan was appointed Minister to the Vatican in 1941, replaced him in Rome. O’Donovan, acting largely on Walshe’s instructions, undertook the delicate negotiations surrounding the agreement that John Charles McQuaid would be appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 1940.

DIFP VI closes in January 1941. The month saw German bombs again drop on Irish territory and saw Britain begin to tighten the economic screws on Ireland. German bombing was later shown to be due to the errors of the Luftwaffe, but Britain’s policy was deliberate and deadly serious, seeking to punish Ireland further for not giving up neutrality, allowing use of the Treaty ports and joining the war effort. Political and economic pressure on Ireland from London would continue through 1941, but Germany’s decision to invade Russia in July 1941 changed the nature of the war in Europe and by moving the war on the land to the east made Ireland’s position somewhat less difficult. In retrospect it is apparent that by January 1941 the worst crisis of the war was over for Ireland, but as the final documents in DIFP VI show, this was in no way obvious at the time.

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 and early 1940s this material covers the missions in London, Washington, Geneva, Brussels, Ottawa, Berne, 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 from 1932 to 1948 there was a tendency for the members of the government to leave foreign policy decisions solely to him.

Readers of Volume VI will notice that both Government minutes and Cabinet minutes are published. While in common parlance the Government and the Cabinet are considered to be the same body, there was a difference between the two. 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 three documents from The National Archives, Kew, London. The first (document No. 37) is a report from Maffey to Eden of his initial weeks in Dublin; the second (document No. 193) and third (document No. 198) are MacDonald’s account of his meetings with de Valera.

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. With the exception of twenty-five documents from files which were located in the London Embassy in the autumn of 2005 and which were released to the public in 2006, 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 VI 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; Julie Connell; Clare Hanratty; Ciaran Madden; Tony McCullough; Jean McManus; Andrée Kearney; Adrian O’Neill; Charles Sheehan and Maureen Sweeney.

At the Royal Irish Academy: Professor Nicholas Canny, President of the Academy, and his predecessor, Professor James Slevin; Patrick Buckley, Executive Secretary of the Academy; Professor Howard Clarke, Secretary of the Academy; James McGuire (Managing Editor) and Dr James Quinn (Executive Editor) of the Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography and Dr Kate O’Malley of DIFP.

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

At the University College Dublin Archives Department (School of History and Archives): Seamus Helferty, Ailsa Holland, Kate Manning and Orna Somerville.

At the Institute of Public Administration: 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.

Document 406 is reproduced with the kind permission of the estate of Samuel Beckett.

We would also like to thank Commandant Victor Laing of Military Archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin, Professor John Horne, Trinity College Dublin, Helen Litton, and our typist, Maura O’Shea.

Catriona Crowe
Ronan Fanning
Michael Kennedy
Eunan O’Halpin
12 June 2008




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