This volume of selected documents, the seventh in the Documents on Irish Foreign Policy (DIFP) series, runs from January 1941 to August 1945. It commences with neutrality firmly established as the central tenet of Irish foreign policy during the Second World War. Neutrality was strongly influenced by Taoiseach and Minister for External Affairs Éamon de Valera’s belief that as a small powerless state Ireland could not take part in great power quarrels and that Ireland’s independence would only suffer if the country was drawn into the world war. There was also the very real fear that participation in the war, particularly at Britain’s instigation, would enhance support for the IRA and even lead to renewed civil war in Ireland. While certain aspects of neutrality, such as the preservation of Ireland’s sovereignty and the commitment that Ireland would resist militarily an attack from any quarter, remained fixed principles, neutrality could accommodate responses to the changing fortunes of war around and over Ireland, and was adapted as the international situation facing Ireland evolved. Neutrality had wide public support, and the policy enabled the Department of External Affairs to keep Ireland out of the almost five years of global conflict covered in this volume.
Through the Second World War the development, control and execution of Irish foreign policy remained in the hands of a small group of senior officials in Dublin working directly to de Valera. The group was headed by the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, Joseph P. Walshe, and included Assistant Secretary Frederick H. Boland, Legal Adviser Michael Rynne, and Walshe’s private secretary, Sheila Murphy. They executed policy in line with the Taoiseach’s views on Ireland’s international position, but not always with de Valera’s hands-on involvement. Yet Walshe was always sure to run policy proposals by de Valera to get his agreement and he kept the Taoiseach fully informed at all times.
An important wartime development in the execution of Ireland’s foreign relations was the high-level co-operation between the Department of External Affairs and the Military Intelligence branch of the Irish Defence Forces, G2. Walshe had a close working relationship with the two wartime Directors of Intelligence, Colonel Liam Archer and his successor, Colonel Dan Bryan. The Department of External Affairs and G2 jointly countered the intelligence operations of the belligerents in Ireland and belligerent contact with Irish subversives. The External Affairs-G2 partnership had an external dimension through the top secret wartime contacts between the Irish and the British security services, contacts known only at the highest level in each organisation in Dublin and London.
There was little change to the network of Irish overseas diplomatic missions, or to the personnel staffing them, between 1941 and 1945. The only new mission established opened in Lisbon in 1942. The capitals of the powers at war in Ireland’s immediate vicinity and posing the greatest threat to Ireland – London, Washington and Berlin – became the overseas missions of greatest significance to Ireland during the Second World War. These were followed in importance by Ottawa, Madrid, the Holy See, and Lisbon. Through these posts the Department of External Affairs hoped to acquire information on the progress of the war, and they provided useful channels for access to the warring parties. The remaining missions, Vichy, Berne and Rome, acted as listening posts, providing Dublin with important streams of information on the global conflict.
The documents in this volume of DIFP reflect the primary concerns of Second World War Irish foreign policy, in particular the maintenance of neutrality, and they accordingly prioritise British-Irish, Irish-American and Irish-German relations. The volume also includes material from the wider network of Irish diplomatic missions, showing how they provided a steady flow of up-to-date information to headquarters, ensuring that the Department of External Affairs remained well informed about developments across the theatres of war. The Department of External Affairs was not isolated from the world at war. The wartime files of the Department, so far as Ireland’s foreign service is concerned, give the lie to the assertion that neutrality involved Ireland turning its back on the Second World War.
The hardships facing Irish diplomats serving overseas in wartime were considerable. These included the discomforts of rationing and the physical and mental dislocation of wartime life. Irish diplomats witnessed firsthand the London Blitz, the Allied bombing of Rome, Allied day-time and nighttime air raids on Germany, and the beginning of preparations to meet the Soviet ground assault on Berlin. The very real possibility facing Irish diplomats of death as a result of hostilities is graphically illustrated by the reports covering the destruction during an air raid of the Irish Legation in Berlin in 1943.
From late 1943 the Department of External Affairs explored the likely parameters of Ireland’s international position in the post-war world. Many critical pre-war foreign policy issues, such as British-Irish relations, participation in international institutions and the maintenance of international sovereignty, would remain central concerns of post-war Irish foreign policy. As the likelihood of Allied victory increased, Dublin had to ensure that in the post-war world Ireland’s independence and freedom would not be dominated by the concerns of the great powers. External Affairs sought to explain to the Allies that Ireland had a right to determine its own future free from external pressure, and that that future would be based first and foremost on Ireland’s national and international interests.
The volume concludes as the global war ends and the post-war world dawns, with the Department of External Affairs aware that the threat from Nazism and Fascism was being replaced by the new threat of the Soviet Union and Communism. Ireland had now to find a viable position in the increasingly polarised global system of what would become the early years of the Cold War. The nature, scope and apparatus of foreign policy-making and execution altered as the concerns of foreign policy widened in the post-war years, responding to the challenges of the changed international ideological and geopolitical realignment of the Cold War and the return to multilateral diplomacy through the United Nations and its associated agencies.
In this light, DIFP VII marks the beginning of a period of fundamental change in the nature and scope of Irish foreign policy, beginning in the final years of the Second World War and continuing until Ireland became a member of the United Nations in 1955. By beginning in 1945 to anticipate the changing place of the nation state in the international order, and exploring the limitations the world system placed on a state’s international sovereignty, Ireland began a process that would culminate in joining the then European Economic Community in 1973.
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Through 1941 the Department of External Affairs actively asserted Ireland’s neutrality in the face of continuing pressure against Ireland from both belligerents. British propaganda, supported by the United States, attacked Ireland for remaining neutral and called on Dublin to enter the war effort on the Allied side. Germany wished Ireland to remain neutral, but despite Irish protests German armed forces disregarded neutrality through sporadic attacks on Irish territory and infrastructure, and mounted unsuccessful intelligence operations in Ireland. Dublin attempted to act even-handedly towards both parties, but geopolitics and the vicissitudes of war saw neutrality tempered through 1941 by de Valera’s ‘certain consideration for Britain’ even though the public face of neutrality remained one of strict impartiality.
The relationship between Dublin and London was the paramount channel for the conduct of wartime Irish foreign policy. Though the relationship between de Valera and British Prime Minister Churchill remained poor, and the political climate between Britain and Ireland was strained, strong relationships at diplomatic and military level enabled British-Irish relations to withstand the force of Churchillian rhetoric.
By 1941 neutrality could accommodate limited quiet co-operation with Britain on war-related matters. This co-operation was not viewed by Dublin as covert involvement in the war effort; rather it was the extension of neutrality as a flexible policy which took into account geopolitical realities as well as Ireland’s international interests. Dublin could expand the boundaries of neutrality to ensure that Britain did not seriously entertain the possibility of invading Ireland. Such non-belligerent assistance to Britain notwithstanding, London never accepted Ireland’s right to remain neutral.
The early summer of 1941 saw Britain’s last attempt at introducing conscription in Northern Ireland. Dublin swiftly initiated direct contact with London in an attempt to halt the move. Through the Irish High Commissioner in London, John Dulanty, the Irish Minister in Washington, Robert Brennan and the Irish High Commissioner in Ottawa, John Hearne, External Affairs managed to wield sufficient influence over Britain to have London drop the proposal.
Dulanty remained one of Ireland’s most important channels of communication with the British government. He played a significant role in the 1941 conscription crisis, but his influence diminished as Joseph Walshe undertook more frequent trips to London to meet officials at the Dominions Office, and as the role of the British representative to Ireland, Sir John Maffey, increased. As the war continued, and as neutrality meant Ireland had reduced access to high-level circles in the British establishment, the scope of Dulanty’s reporting to Dublin diminished. Despite his robust August 1942 intervention seeking the reprieve of IRA volunteers sentenced to death by the Northern Ireland Government for the murder of a policeman, by the end of the war the Walshe-Maffey relationship and direct Dublin-London contacts had rivalled, if not superseded, Dulanty’s once supreme relationship with Whiteall.
The good personal relations between John Hearne and Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King played a significant behind-the-scenes role in ensuring that conscription was not introduced in Northern Ireland. During the Second World War Hearne sought to use Canadian influence in an intermediary role between Dublin, London and Washington to explain Ireland’s outlook to Britain and the United States. Though a belligerent, Canada was something of a neutral ground between these countries; senior Allied figures often passed through Ottawa, allowing Irish and Allied officials to meet informally on the fringes of the Canadian diplomatic circuit. Ottawa became an important back-channel for wartime Irish foreign policy.
Irish-American relations lacked both the subtleties of their British-Irish counterpart and the personal openness of Irish-Canadian relations. In Washington, Irish diplomats encountered strong resistance from the State Department and the White House in their attempts to explain neutrality to an American audience. The Roosevelt White House was not interested in Ireland, except in so far as Ireland could assist Britain in the war effort. Minister Robert Brennan found little open support for Ireland on Capitol Hill and across the Roosevelt administration as American foreign policy moved closer to Britain through 1941. The United States Minister in Dublin, David Gray, viewed Ireland’s neutrality with growing disdain. Gray became an increasingly aggressive component of the conduct of Irish-American relations, and his relationship with de Valera and Walshe was often poor. Due to his close personal relationship with the Roosevelts, Gray’s anti-Irish opinions circulated through the White House and the State Department and onwards into the United States media, further complicating Brennan’s task in Washington. By 1945 Dublin was seeking to have Gray removed from Dublin by the Truman administration.
The unsuccessful wartime mission of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures, Frank Aiken, to the United States from March to June 1941, in search of arms and supplies, merely hardened top-level American opinion against Ireland. The provision of shipping, foodstuffs and military supplies to Ireland was simply not a priority for the United States. Aiken was eventually summoned home, using the worsening of German-Soviet relations as a pretext.
As formal United States entry into the Second World War became likely, wider Irish-American opinion turned against Irish neutrality. In Washington Brennan was told that his championing of Ireland’s neutrality was doing more harm than good. His protests that the stationing of United States forces in Northern Ireland amounted to American approval of the partition of Ireland were met with incredulity in Washington. The State Department responded that it could not be expected to put Irish concerns ahead of Allied strategic war aims. For Dublin the partition of Ireland remained a real concern during wartime, as Northern Ireland was now a belligerent as part of the United Kingdom and the nationalist minority population in Northern Ireland was subject to wartime regulations and exigencies.
Irish-German relations saw none of the sabre-rattling of British-Irish relations or the open aggression and intolerance of Irish-American relations, yet Dublin’s relations with Berlin had their difficulties. German air attacks on Irish territory had begun in 1940 and reached their highest level with the Belfast Blitz in April 1941 and the North Strand bombing in Dublin in late May 1941. While Dublin’s outrage at the attacks on Belfast is apparent in the documents below, the despatch of southern fire brigades to Belfast barely appears, as decisions were taken speedily through telephone communication. The North Strand bombing triggered a significant diplomatic incident; de Valera summoned the German Minister to Ireland, Edouard Hempel, to Iveagh House to explain the Luftwaffe’s actions over Dublin, and instructed Ireland’s Chargé d’Affaires in Berlin, William Warnock, to protest formally to the German Foreign Ministry over the attack.
By the summer of 1941 German air and naval attacks on Irish shipping had become a serious concern for Dublin. Protests were made to Hempel, and consideration was given at Cabinet to arming defensively Irish merchant shipping. This was not undertaken, as it might provoke further and more serious German attacks which could drag Ireland into the war. The most difficult aspects of Irish-German relations concerned German intelligence operations in Ireland and the use of the radio transmitter at the German Legation by Hempel and his colleagues. Though all German spies in Ireland were ultimately rounded up and held in custody and the Legation transmitter was impounded, such German activities remained a continuing problem for Dublin until the end of the war.
The chance of an Axis invasion of Ireland declined in the months after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. The chance of a British invasion also lessened as the war turned east and the Battle of the Atlantic moved away from Irish shores. The final occasion when overt British pressure was placed on Ireland to abandon neutrality was Churchill’s 8 December 1941 ‘now or never’ telegram to de Valera, calling on Ireland to regain her nationhood by joining the war. Contemporary British documents included below indicate that Churchill did not view the telegram as the basis of a deal on partition. Sent in the aftermath of the entry of the United States into the Second World War, it was not seriously entertained by de Valera as an opportunity either for abandoning neutrality or for seeking an end to the partition of Ireland. To place the events of 8 December 1941 in context, correspondence from 1950 between Boland, Walshe and the Secretary of the Department of the Taoiseach, Maurice Moynihan, concerning Churchill’s telegram has been included below, as have two undated memoranda by de Valera.
By early 1942 neutral Ireland retained little geo-strategic value for the Allies. Allied demands for use of southern Irish ports evaporated as modern naval facilities were built on the Foyle, and new airbases in Northern Ireland allowed long range aircraft to patrol far over the Atlantic. From January 1942 to February 1944 the Allies often simply ignored Ireland. The documents below nevertheless show 1942 and 1943 as years of considerable foreign policy activity for Dublin. Though neutral, co-operation with the Allies continued. However, there were limits to this co-operation: the proposed assembly of trucks for the United States army at the Ford plant in Cork was turned down out of hand.
Links with the Allies brought sensitive matters to Dublin’s attention. In 1942 the Department of External Affairs learned via British intelligence channels that Leopold Kerney, Ireland’s Minister in Madrid, was meeting German agents. Kerney’s actions in wartime Madrid became a later source of controversy in the 1950s, when it was suggested in sections of the Irish media that he had overstepped the boundaries of diplomatic practice through his contacts with these agents. Kerney held that he was acting with Dublin’s approval and that by meeting representatives of the different belligerents he was simply doing what any diplomat should do, particularly in the murky world of wartime Madrid. Dublin, suspicious of Kerney’s unconventional behaviour, investigated, using the guise of a 1942 Irish Red Cross mission to Spain as cover for G2 officers to travel to Madrid and Lisbon. External Affairs and G2 also interviewed Kerney when he was on leave in Dublin. Kerney’s actions, whatever their motivation, had greater potential to damage British-Irish relations than to open a new chapter in Irish-German relations, which remained under the watchful eye of William Warnock in Berlin.
The reports in this volume from Berlin are a unique English-language source on conditions in Germany and in the capital of the Reich during the Second World War, reflecting a range of aspects of wartime life in the city and illustrating the increasing ferocity of the Allied air, and later ground, assault on Germany. Ireland’s Chargé d’Affaires in Berlin, William Warnock and, from 1944, Con Cremin, witnessed the collapse of the Third Reich and reported on that collapse in detail to Dublin.
The Irish Legation in Vichy became something of a diplomatic backwater, even though it undertook considerable reporting on political and public opinion in France and on the condition of the French people. The Legation also represented Irish citizens living in both zones in France, including writer Samuel Beckett, extracts from whose wartime correspondence with Cremin and Count O’Kelly de Gallagh are reproduced below. Franco-Irish relations remained low key until the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942. Walshe then learned that the French Minister in Dublin, Xavier de Laforcade, was considering transferring his loyalty from Vichy to the Free French. Dublin maintained its distance from the two French sides and avoided having to side with one group against the other. De Laforcade was later formally dismissed by Vichy and replaced as Minister by the Legation’s Secretary, Benjamin Cauvet-Duhamel.
Seán Murphy’s confidential dispatches from Vichy show the anti-Semitic policies undertaken in both zones in wartime France. The destruction of the records of the Irish Legation in Berlin in 1943 limits the surviving record of Warnock’s insights into anti-Semitic policies in wartime Germany. By early 1943 de Valera was receiving telegrams from his friend Rabbi Isaac Hertzog in Jerusalem, and appeals from prominent Dublin Jewish families and Jewish organisations in London, urging representations in Berlin on behalf of Jews in danger or already incarcerated in occupied Europe. Inquiries were made by Warnock and Cremin to German officials, invariably without success.
While the level of detail now known about the treatment of Jews in wartime Germany, Italy, France and occupied Europe is absent from the documents below, general knowledge of the dispossession, deportation, and incarceration of European Jews in specific concentration camps in Poland and the east of Europe is clear from Irish diplomatic traffic. Definite knowledge of their fate in the concentration and extermination camps is less clear, though the names Bergen-Belsen, Birkenau and Auschwitz appear in telegrams between Dublin and the Irish Legation in Berlin. In October 1944 Dublin asked Cremin to investigate information received that the extermination of all Jews in Auschwitz was planned by German forces should they be forced to retreat; this was denied by the German Foreign Ministry. In January 1945 Brennan wrote from Washington to Walshe about the German policy of ‘exterminating’ the surviving Jewish population of Hungary. If the means of extermination were not referred to, German intentions were certainly known to Dublin.
Through late 1943 and 1944 Dublin often inquired from Berlin whether Jews in certain occupied countries and in Germany were exempt from deportation if they held neutral visas. The regular reply from Warnock and Cremin was that such documentation would afford no protection. The Department of External Affairs also intervened on behalf of a small number of Jews in Germany and France to get them visas or exit permits to leave occupied or German territory. It was again to no avail; contacts between the Irish Legation in Berlin and German officials resulted in Warnock and Cremin being told that this was an internal matter for the German Government. A further 1944-5 attempt, agreed by de Valera, to bring a group of German Jewish children to Ireland for subsequent travel to the United States was also fruitless.
Overt Irish involvement in the course of the war was limited but not absent. De Valera appealed on several occasions in summer and winter of 1943 and spring and summer of 1944 for the belligerents to respect the safety and integrity of Rome. He appealed to them to refrain from bombing the city and called for the creation of a neutral zone around the city and later for the declaration of the Italian capital as an ‘Open City’. These appeals were unsuccessful.
Ireland had more success in the final years of the war in developing a small overseas relief aid programme. Aid was sent to Europe through the Red Cross or direct to the governments of the countries concerned. The Allies did not want neutrals involved in their relief organisation, UNRRA, and Ireland did not wish to get involved in a scheme created by the belligerent powers. Ireland sent aid to many of the devastated states of western Europe, and also to India after the Bengal Famine of 1943. While the motivation for sending this aid was generally a genuine desire to assist, there was also a sense that Ireland had to be seen to play a role, however small, in rebuilding Europe for fear it might lose its remaining goodwill amongst the Allies. Ultimately relief was only sent if Ireland was first able to supply its own internal requirements, had a surplus available for aid purposes, and if there was transport available. Nevertheless these wartime initiatives mark the beginning of Ireland’s overseas aid programme.
The desire to follow an independent outlook in international affairs meant that Ireland would not follow the Allies unthinkingly, as they were on the verge of victory, and would not automatically accede to Allied demands. A case in point was Dublin’s refusal to hand over to Allied custody the German naval personnel rescued by the Irish merchant vessel Kerlogue in January 1944. This episode, and the parachuting into Ireland of two Irishmen acting as German agents in December 1943, increased Allied concerns in early 1944 that, with the invasion of Europe imminent, Ireland could become a centre for German intelligence activities that might impede the invasion, and equally that Ireland would not co-operate in preventing such an outcome occurring.
In the run up to D-Day the Allies sought to isolate Ireland in a series of moves that began with the ‘American Note’ of 21 February 1944. Initiated and delivered to de Valera by Gray, though drafted with input from the State Department and the military departments in Washington, the ‘American Note’ came to External Affairs as a bolt from the blue. The Note called for the expulsion of the German, Italian and Japanese diplomatic representatives from Dublin. To de Valera and Walshe it was an act of aggressive interference with Irish independence and sovereignty, and an unwelcome American involvement in Ireland’s domestic affairs. Its sentiments attacked the rationale for neutrality: a foreign power could not tell Ireland how to conduct its affairs.
Dublin interpreted the ‘American Note’ as the pretext for a possible Allied invasion of Ireland through Northern Ireland. On Walshe’s instructions Brennan sought reassurance from Washington that an invasion was not planned. While this reassurance was forthcoming, the State Department told Brennan that if any intelligence leak concerning the invasion of Europe was traced to Ireland the responsibility for the leak would lie with Dublin. Walshe went as far as suggesting that the object of the Note was to make Ireland the scapegoat for any heavy casualties incurred in the invasion.
Preventing possible leakages of information from Ireland was now a top priority for the Department of External Affairs in conjunction with the Department of Justice, the Garda Síochána and G2. Dublin feared the imposition of harsh sanctions on Ireland to isolate her from the outside world, and countered that the Irish intelligence services had the country effectively sealed and would ensure that no leakage of information on Allied plans could occur.
From March 1944 until Operation Overlord commenced on 6 June 1944, measures including a travel ban and the closing of communication links, including air and telephone services, between Britain and Ireland, were implemented jointly by the Allies and Ireland, closing off Ireland to the outside world and reducing the possibility of information on the invasion of Europe leaking from Ireland. Official and military links, in particular close co-operation between the Department of External Affairs and the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS – the forerunner of the CIA), ensured that Dublin could at least work with the Allies on the nature of the measures to be imposed.
In the months after D-Day efforts were made to repair and improve relations with the Allies. The remaining British airmen interned in the Curragh were released, and contacts with American security officials continued. Irish foreign policy began to deal with issues arising from the liberation of Western Europe. The ongoing war in the Far East against Japan was not a concern for Irish foreign policymakers.
In August 1944 Dublin accepted de Gaulle’s provisional government and his representative in Dublin – Xavier de Laforcade. Dublin proposed that Ireland’s Minister to Vichy, Seán Murphy, be reaccredited to the new government in Paris. The Quai d’Orsay was less than pleased. Franco-Irish relations entered a period of some coldness, despite formal assurances from Paris to Dublin that all was well, until Murphy left Paris in 1950.
Relations with Germany in 1944 and 1945 had to be handled carefully to ensure that Cremin could safely leave Berlin, without causing a breach of protocol with the German Foreign Ministry, in advance of Russian forces reaching the city. Cremin remained in Berlin until early 1945, and his final reports show Germany’s last attempts to maintain the initiative in Western Europe through the Ardennes offensive and the introduction of new weapons against the Allies. While carrying the message that Germany would not capitulate and would fight to the end, these reports chronicle the accelerating collapse of the German Reich in the face of the Soviet advance from the east. In February 1945 Cremin left Berlin, he travelled south towards the Swiss border and based himself at Bregenz. In the final days of April the area came under the control of United States forces and Cremin came under their protection.
Pressing problems arising out of the impending conclusion of the war in Europe were whether Ireland would give asylum to Axis war criminals, and how it would dispose of any German property and assets in Ireland. The substantial issue here was not in fact the question of war criminals or of German assets, but David Gray’s attempts to use both matters to exert Allied influence over Ireland. The Department of External Affairs’ response was consistent with Irish neutrality. Ireland, following the rules of international law, would not give asylum to persons whose presence in Ireland was contrary to Ireland’s interests and those of friendly states. Regarding Axis assets, the use of Irish territory for the concealment of unlawfully appropriated property was contrary to Irish government policy. Where lawful assets were concerned, and those in Ireland were negligible, Ireland would keep only what it was due by way of compensation for German wartime actions against Ireland and would not release other assets until after the conclusion of hostilities.
De Valera never publicly explained the rationale behind his notorious visit, on 2 May 1945, to German Minister to Ireland Edouard Hempel, in order to sign the book of condolences opened on the death of Hitler. Three weeks after the visit, which became the subject of considerable international criticism and condemnation, de Valera sought in a letter to Brennan in Washington to give a private explanation for his actions. The visit was, he explained, out of respect for Hempel and out of courtesy to the German nation and because of the need to honour formal protocol amongst heads of state without the connotation of the approval or disapproval of the head of state in question.
Department of External Affairs documents put the visit in context, though they offer no further explanation for de Valera’s action. Fearing the destruction of the archives at the German Legation in Dublin, the State Department asked Gray to seek from de Valera an assurance that the German Legation would be handed over to the Allies before the cessation of hostilities. Gray believed that the Legation held documents that would reveal the extent of German wartime espionage in Ireland. In a difficult meeting with Gray on 30 April 1945 de Valera coldly told the American minister that, as a neutral, Ireland would not hand the Legation over to the Allies before the end of hostilities – even as a friendly act towards the United States and Britain. On 1 May and on the morning of 2 May, de Valera and Walshe explained to Gray that Ireland would co-operate with the Allies over custody of the Legation only after Germany had formally surrendered. The Irish authorities would then take over the Legation and hand it over to the Allies as the new authority in charge. Ireland had no responsibility in law for the contents of the Legation at the time of the handover. External Affairs felt that Gray had been mischievous in his handling of the transfer and the Taoiseach was clearly displeased. It was after this chain of events that de Valera, on the afternoon of 2 May 1945, signed the book of condolence. The German Legation was finally handed over to the Irish authorities on the morning of 10 May 1945; the Allies took over the premises that afternoon.
Michael MacWhite sent a chilling report to Dublin on the death of Benito Mussolini, and Leopold Kerney reported from Madrid on the death of Hitler, as did Hearne from Ottawa and Patrick J. O’Byrne from Lisbon. From Schloss Babenhausen in Schwaben, Cremin simply reported that the people of Germany were happy that the war was over. Reports arrived in Dublin of the international outcry at de Valera’s signing Hitler’s book of condolences, and External Affairs had to deal with fallout from small but vocal pro- and anti-Allied protests in Dublin on VE-day; these had seen the burning of flags and the breaking of windows at the British Representative’s office and the United States Consulate General. Churchill criticised Ireland’s neutrality in his VE Day speech from London. Shortly afterwards came de Valera’s radio broadcast by way of reply. Reports to Dublin on the Taoiseach’s speech stressed the maturity and dignity of the response, but added that it was almost immediately old news compared to the problems of peace.
As Europe returned to peace, Dublin kept watch on the policies of the great powers towards smaller states, trying to ensure that Irish interests remained accommodated; this is demonstrated by Ireland’s negotiation of a bilateral aviation agreement with the United States, ensuring the use of Shannon Airport by American transatlantic carriers. It was not just a case of ensuring the rights of smaller states in the international system, but also of ensuring that Ireland remained independent and nationally distinctive in that system. Towards this end the development of an Irish international short wave broadcasting service was planned. Independence did not mean isolation for Ireland: facing into the post-war world, de Valera and the Department of External Affairs saw Ireland as internationalist, territorially European, culturally part of the Western European Christian tradition and friendly towards the United States. Walshe, in particular, explicitly saw Ireland as a part of a combined European-Anglo-American grouping of Christian states. The nation state remained the key element in Irish foreign policy, and, according to Walshe, Ireland would need to remain vigilant against the development of larger economic entities that might subsume the nation state.
The Department of External Affairs was aware, though not concerned, that it was because of the state’s neutrality that Ireland was being left out of the foundation of the United Nations. Walshe and Rynne were sceptical of the new organisation as it was being developed by the Allies. They considered that it would discriminate against ex-neutral states, and was unlikely to facilitate an independent voice for small states, who would be reduced to listening to and obeying the great powers. There was also debate in External Affairs on whether Ireland should leave the League of Nations. Eventually, continued membership was deemed necessary as a sign of Ireland’s willingness to engage with the international system. Ireland remained a member of the League until its dissolution in April 1946 and was not a founding member of the United Nations in 1945, having neither sought nor received an invitation to attend the San Francisco conference which established the organisation. Irish membership of the United Nations was vetoed by the Soviet Union in 1946, and Ireland did not finally become a member until 1955.
The threat posed to Western civilisation by the Soviet Union became a recurrent theme in Irish foreign policy through the first half of 1945. This was a reflection of Walshe’s international outlook, but it was also a reaction to the encroachment of Communism on Eastern and Central Europe. Both Hearne’s and MacWhite’s reports point to the growing Soviet threat and the rising tension between Russia and the Western Allies. MacWhite in Rome and Murphy in Paris also highlighted rising support for Communism in Italy and France, and MacWhite pointed out likely flashpoints for a Western clash with the Soviet Union in Austria and Trieste.
The situation facing Poland, particularly after the Yalta Conference, was of concern to Walshe; he and Dulanty regularly met with Polish diplomats in Dublin and London, and Walshe reported the results to de Valera. Dublin made no secret of its view that the Polish Government-in-exile in London was the legitimate government of Poland. With plans afoot to initiate formal diplomatic relations with Czechoslovakia and even Russia, 1945 marks the opening up of Irish foreign policy to Central and Eastern Europe. However, the commencement of the Cold War called a halt to formal diplomatic relations with the states of Eastern Europe for over a generation.
Through the summer of 1945 the Department of External Affairs began to readjust to the new world that was appearing around it. Brennan developed contacts with the Truman administration, Walshe sorted out with Maffey the departure from Ireland of German internees, and Walshe and Brennan discussed how Gray might be withdrawn from Dublin. Boland’s contacts with the British Representative’s Office in Dublin now concerned financial, social and economic matters, not the difficulties of neutrality. Further shipments of aid were sent to Europe, including an Irish Red Cross hospital to France. To Walshe, the Department of External Affairs had come out of the Second World War tired and war-weary. Senior staff had been posted abroad for the duration of the war and wished to return home or even retire. The future saw the probable expansion of the Irish diplomatic service, with missions to Australia, Northern Europe, South America, Eastern Europe and Russia on the cards. It was time to take stock. To do so the Department of External Affairs summoned senior officials abroad to a Heads of Mission conference in Dublin in mid-September 1945, to plan Ireland’s next steps in the post-war world.
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 records of the Department of Foreign Affairs 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 200 series is the most important section of the general registry where the Second World War is concerned. As the war drew to a close, a further 300 series was established, to be joined by a 400 series in the later 1940s. These file series remained the core of the Department’s general registry for the next twenty years.
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. The A Series and the P Series have provided considerable material for DIFP VII.
Material generated in Irish missions abroad is held at the National Archives in Dublin in the Embassies Series collection. For the early to mid-1940s this material covers the missions in London, Washington, Geneva (to 1940), the Holy See, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Ottawa, Rome, Berne and Lisbon. Due to weeding and wartime destruction the Embassies Series is often patchy for the 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 roughly chronological order. Under de Valera there was a tendency for the members of the Government to leave foreign policy decisions solely to him as Taoiseach and Minister for External Affairs. Accordingly the Department of the Taoiseach played less of a role in foreign policy formulation than it had up to 1932.
Readers of Volume VII will notice that both Government minutes and Cabinet minutes are published in DIFP volumes. 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.
This volume reproduces the text of four documents from The National Archives, Kew, London. Document No. 154 is the original text of Churchill’s 8 December 1941 ‘Now or never’ telegram to de Valera (TNA DO 130/17). When published after the war in Churchill’s war memoirs the final sentence of the telegram, which read ‘Am very ready to meet you at any time’, was altered to read ‘I will meet you wherever you wish’. The editors of DIFP VII have used the original text as delivered to Maffey. Maffey’s telegram conveying de Valera’s immediate response to Churchill’s telegram and Maffey’s understanding that the message from Churchill did not suggest any deal over the partition of Ireland is reproduced as document No. 157 (TNA DO 130/17). Dulanty’s January 1943 aide mémoire to Clement Attlee regarding conditions of residence in Northern Ireland was not located in Department of Foreign Affairs files, and appears as No. 262 below (TNA DO 35/1229). Indicative of British interception of Irish diplomatic telephone traffic between London and Dublin is No. 344 (TNA DO 121/87), a British Security Service transcript of a November 1943 conversation between Dulanty and Walshe. DIFP VII also contains two documents from the David Gray papers at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park in New York. The first, from 17 May 1941, conveys de Valera’s views to Gray on the contents of a memorandum drawn up by Gray of a conversation with de Valera. The second, from November 1941, is a brief note from Walshe to Gray which replies to an apparent comment by Gray that the Ku Klux Klan was undergoing a resurgence and many members were Irish Catholics.
Editorial policy and the selection of documents
The executive editor and assistant editor are responsible for the initial wide choice of documents that make up a volume of DIFP. These documents are then assessed jointly at periodic group meetings by the executive editor, the assistant editor and the four editors, to select the most appropriate documents for publication. Documents are prioritised in terms of importance and are processed by the editors in chronological 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 was 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 contained 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. At all times efforts have been made 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 spoken by a number of diplomats, particularly Joseph Walshe, and many officials were bilingual. In correspondence, the Irish language was more commonly used for salutations and in signatures. In many cases there was no consistent spelling of Gaelicised names and in the volume 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 VII of the Documents on Irish Foreign Policy Series. The assistance of the following is particularly acknowledged:
At the Department of Foreign Affairs: David Cooney, Secretary General of the Department; Sarah Callanan, Julie Connell, Tim Mawe, Jean McManus, and Maureen Sweeney. We would also like to thank Dermot Gallagher, former Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
At the Royal Irish Academy: Professor Nicholas Canny, President of the Academy; Patrick Buckley, Executive Secretary of the Academy; James McGuire (Managing Editor) and Dr James Quinn (Executive Editor) of the Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography, and Eoin Kinsella, Editorial Assistant, and Dr Kate O’Malley, Assistant Editor, of DIFP.
At the National Archives: Dr David Craig, Director, for his generosity in providing access to the facilities and collections; 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: Richard Boyle and Hannah Ryan, with Helen Litton as copyeditor.
We acknowledge with thanks the permission of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York and The National Archives, Kew, London for permission to publish material in their care.
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 the Military Archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin, Dr Aengus Nolan, Julitta Clancy, who indexed the volume, and our typist, Maura O’Shea.
Samuel Beckett’s letters of 11 October 1942 (No. 231), 27 October 1942 (No. 234), 30 June 1943 (No. 290) and 17 July 1943 (No. 298) are reproduced by kind permission of the Estate of Samuel Beckett, c/o Rosica Colin Limited, London.
In April 2010 we were saddened to learn of the sudden death of Tom Turley, who copyedited all the DIFP volumes from 1998. Tom imparted a lifetime’s experience in publishing to DIFP and played an important behind-the-scenes role in the project’s work. His careful and insightful editing of each volume over twelve years was an integral part of the publication process.
6 August 2010