Volume 9 1948~1951

Doc No.

This ninth volume in the Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series covers the three years and four months of Ireland’s first coalition government. Comprising five parties: Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Clann na Poblachta, Clann na Talmhan and the National Labour Party, it was known as the ‘Inter-Party Government’; a term the government consciously chose in preference to that of ‘Coalition’. In office from 18 February 1948 to 13 June 1951, and led by John A. Costello of Fine Gael, the government suffered from the strains to be expected within a broad administration, many of whose members had not previously held ministerial office or had not done so since 1932.

The Clann na Poblachta leader and former ‘Chief of Staff’ of the illegal Irish Republican Army, Seán MacBride, chose the External Affairs portfolio. For the first time in sixteen years control of Ireland’s foreign policy was no longer in the hands of Éamon de Valera and the head of government was not also the Minister for External Affairs. MacBride dominated the foreign policy of the Inter-Party Government and his choice of External Affairs demonstrated his desire to follow in de Valera’s footsteps. De Valera, when he took office in 1932, had prior experience of cabinet government, foreign relations and diplomacy, having headed the revolutionary government which won Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom. MacBride, however, was new to the conduct of international affairs when he arrived at Iveagh House in February 1948. This was reflected in his approach to the handling of Ireland’s foreign policy throughout the Inter-Party Government’s term.

While DIFP IX covers the entire term of the Inter-Party Government, it focusses on its most active years in foreign relations: 1948 and 1949. During these two years Ireland formally left the Commonwealth, declared itself a Republic, refused to join the newly formed North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) (though remaining virulently anti-Communist), participated in the European Recovery Program (Marshall Aid), was a founder member state of the Council of Europe and pursued an internationally active stance on ending the partition of Ireland.

During its final eighteen months, in contrast, the Inter-Party Government’s approach to foreign policy became noticeably low-key. This was largely as a consequence of the decisions taken during its earlier period in office. Ireland was now outside the United Nations, NATO, the Commonwealth, and the European Coal and Steel Community. With Marshall Aid coming to an end, Dublin had, apart from bilateral relations with fifteen states, only its membership of the Council of Europe and a range of European and international technical organisations to connect it to the international system. MacBride’s attempts to internationalise partition and to bring about Irish unity by persuading the international community to act had failed. Ironically, the Ireland Act of June 1949, which was Britain’s legislative response to Ireland’s leaving the Commonwealth, entrenched partition. By 1951, Ireland had become increasingly isolated internationally.


MacBride and Costello represented political parties of very different ideologies and outlooks. Costello’s Fine Gael was traditionally seen as conservative and more ‘Commonwealth-orientated’, whereas Clann na Poblachta, founded in 1946, had a radical social and Republican agenda. One area where Costello and MacBride did share common ground was their Catholicism. MacBride had made the transition from physical force republicanism to strictly constitutional politics in the late 1930s, and as Minister for External Affairs sought to demonstrate how good a Catholic statesman he was by often seeking the opinion of the most powerful Catholic cleric in Ireland, Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, on foreign policy issues. McQuaid regularly advised Costello and MacBride, and Taoiseach and Minister invoked Catholic values as the touchstone of their actions in office. A strong strain of Catholicism permeated the foreign policy of the Inter-Party Government.

Lacking experience in government, MacBride ran Ireland’s foreign policy in a subjective manner, rather than in accordance with international practice and diplomatic procedure. An accomplished lawyer and court-room advocate, he was confident that his personal skills could be decisive in the advancement of Ireland’s international interests. Born in Paris, where he spent his early years, he remained a Francophile throughout his life. A strong advocate of European integration, he was vigorously anti-Communist and a vocal supporter of Christian Democracy, a defender of the Holy See and of the objectives of Papal diplomacy. He remained, with the advance of the Cold War, avowedly pro-Western and maintained a strong desire to promote Ireland’s independence and international sovereignty.

The conduct of Irish foreign policy during the Inter-Party Government was beset by clashes of opinion between senior officials and figures in the government. MacBride began progressively to communicate his views and decisions to the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, Frederick Boland, not directly but through his Private Secretary. Boland’s increasingly difficult relationship with his Minister influenced his decision to vacate the position of Secretary of the Department of External Affairs in mid-1950 to become Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

The rules of cabinet government, notably in the area of foreign policy were strained between 1948 and 1951. As the leader of one of the government parties and seeking to expand the scope of the Department of External Affairs, MacBride did not hesitate to offer views and table proposals on a wide range of issues beyond the traditional sphere of foreign relations. Disdainful of established cabinet procedures, he frequently brought memoranda directly to cabinet on his own initiative without submitting them through the Department of the Taoiseach, which co-ordinated cabinet business. This antagonized senior civil servants, fellow Ministers, and, most significantly, the Taoiseach. The smooth working of the machinery of cabinet government was also affected by the Taoiseach’s decision, apparently at MacBride’s behest, to exclude the experienced Secretary to the Government, Maurice Moynihan, from cabinet proceedings on the grounds that he had worked too closely with de Valera in government to be entirely reliable. From 1948 to 1951, cabinet minutes were instead taken by Costello’s economic advisor, Dr. Patrick Lynch, and by the Parliamentary Secretary at the Department of Industry and Commerce, Liam Cosgrave.

The Inter-Party Government took power in the middle of a broader period from 1945 to 1955 when Ireland reoriented its external relations as the Cold War intensified. In 1948 Ireland’s overseas missions were predominantly in Western Europe and North America, though since 1945 legations had been opened in Argentina, Sweden and Australia. Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union remained unknown territory for Irish diplomats, and there was considerable reluctance formally to recognize the Communist governments of Eastern Europe. The only new missions opened abroad between 1948 and 1951 were a legation in The Hague, a consulate general in Frankfurt, and a short-lived consulate in New Orleans.

MacBride’s term of office saw a gradual change in the nomenclature of Irish diplomatic representatives abroad: ‘Ministers’ in legations were replaced by Ambassadors in embassies. This was a result of the 1948 repeal of the External Relations Act, the declaration of the Republic of Ireland in 1949 and an international move by small states after the Second World War to appoint diplomats at ambassadorial level. Joseph Walshe’s appointment as Ambassador to the Holy See in 1946 was followed in 1950 by the appointment of John Dulanty, and later Frederick Boland, as Ambassadors to Great Britain and John Hearne as Ambassador to the United States. Shortly afterwards the legations in Paris, Ottawa and Canberra were raised to embassies.

MacBride’s biggest change to the Department of External Affairs was in the internal structure of the department’s headquarters at Iveagh House. His interest in enhancing the international appreciation of Ireland’s culture and heritage was seen in the creation of the Cultural Relations Division. The impact of involvement in the European Recovery Program necessitated the ERP Division. MacBride had great ambitions for the Information Division. Established on his initiative, it was responsible for a global anti-partition campaign, and was to work with another newly-established venture, the Irish News Agency, to develop an international consensus on ending the partition of Ireland. While the secretary, assistant secretaries and the legal adviser remained the key senior officials in Iveagh House, MacBride’s tenure also saw the rise of the Political Division. By the late 1950s, it was the core of the Department, overseeing foreign policy development.

As Minister, MacBride took considerable interest in personnel issues. He appointed Clann na Poblachta member, Josephine McNeill, as Minister to the Netherlands. She thus became Ireland’s first female head of mission. As she was appointed outside normal appointment channels ‘in the public interest’, she was often viewed as an interloper by her External Affairs colleagues.

Boland’s 1950 departure to become Ambassador in London allowed MacBride to secure the appointment of Seán Nunan as Secretary of the Department of External Affairs. Nunan, who had spent most of his diplomatic career in the United States, first shadowed, and then replaced Boland as Secretary in the autumn of 1950. Nunan had been de Valera’s private secretary during his American tours in 1919 and 1920. He had, like MacBride, opposed the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, and had been sacked from the infant Department of External Affairs for his political views in 1922, only to be reinstated by de Valera in 1932. Nunan had never served at headquarters in Dublin and knew little of Ireland’s external relations interests beyond her bilateral dealings with the United States. As a result assistant secretaries Con Cremin and Leo McCauley assumed increasing responsibility for policy in key areas as Ireland sought to adjust to the multilateral world of the 1950s.

MacBride had no honeymoon period as Minister. His inexperience made him vulnerable to alarmist reports regarding the Cold War in Europe and Ireland’s position in the deepening East-West struggle. Disturbed on his second day in office by a report from Ambassador to the Holy See Joseph Walshe that the Italian left-wing press was claiming that the Inter-Party Government represented a leftwards shift in Ireland’s outlook, MacBride instantly reacted by instructing that a message of Ireland’s ‘filial devotion’ to the Holy See be sent to Pope Pius XII. This document has long been viewed as the work of Costello; it was in fact the work of MacBride, inspired by Walshe. However, against the advice of Cabinet Secretary Maurice Moynihan, it was approved by Costello in cabinet. Similarly when it seemed that a Socialist/Communist electoral alliance was heading for victory in the 1948 Italian general election MacBride, again on Walshe’s prompting, used Irish government channels and his contacts with the leaders of the Irish Catholic hierarchy to transfer over L50,000, close to €2,000,000 in 2014 figures, via Walshe, to Vatican contacts to support the election campaign of the Italian Christian Democratic party.

Joseph Walshe had overseen the execution of Irish foreign policy from
1922 to 1946. He had been de Valera’s right-hand man for fourteen years, although during the second world war his influence waned. Ambassador to the Holy See since 1946, Walshe increasingly sought directly to influence MacBride on foreign affairs. Walshe believed that he had developed a privileged personal relationship with the Vatican Secretariat of State and with Pope Pius XII, and that they, in turn, looked on Ireland with special favour. Walshe’s belief in this special relationship was ill-founded. He often made poor assessments of the power relationship between Dublin and the Vatican. On a number of occasions, most specifically their attempt in late 1948 to influence the choice of the Holy See in its appointment of a papal nuncio to Ireland, Walshe and MacBride greatly overestimated their capacity to influence the Secretariat of State. The Vatican did not accept outside interference in the selection and nomination of a nuncio. Stung by the Holy See’s rebuff over the appointment, Walshe even went so far as to suggest his own temporary withdrawal in protest.

While the appointment of a new papal nuncio was a significant issue for  Iveagh House, Walshe’s dispatches from the Holy See display an increasingly polarised world view. He was fixated on the scale of the Communist threat to Europe and the inevitability of a third world war. Yet Walshe clearly enjoyed greater influence over MacBride between 1948 and 1951 than he had with de Valera from 1946 to 1948. At times he appeared to have a greater influence on policy than did the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs. Walshe’s working relationship with MacBride hid a personal disdain for his Minister, an outlook that only became strongly apparent once it was clear the Inter- Party Government’s days were numbered.

In his first months in office MacBride displayed great energy in responding to current foreign policy issues. This dynamism was seen in his visit to Washington DC in May 1948 to negotiate with United States authorities on the financial provisions earmarked for Ireland under the European Recovery Program. American policymakers and politicians and European Co-operation Administration officials, particularly the anglophile State Department, had not forgotten Ireland’s wartime neutrality. They maintained that countries such as Ireland which had suffered little or no war damage and which had stayed out of the conflict should receive only loans rather than grants under the ERP. The ‘Loans versus Grants’ question was the primary issue facing Ireland over Marshall Aid. Ireland wished to avail of the ERP and play its part in the recovery of Western Europe, but Dublin protested its inability to repay Marshall Plan loans. Prompted by MacBride, over the course of 1948 Irish diplomats in Washington did partly convince the State Department of the Irish case. Ireland was eventually to receive $18 million dollars of grants under Marshall Aid in addition to $130 million dollars of loans.

MacBride reacted strongly when de Valera exploited the freedom of opposition to embark on a world tour to highlight the partition of Ireland. He sought to expunge all references to de Valera-inspired literature in the government’s promotion of Ireland’s foreign policy, including anti-partition publicity, and personally forbade the provision of Irish diplomatic facilities and support to de Valera and other members of the opposition on visits abroad.

MacBride aspired to bring partition to an end during his term of office. Ending partition had always been to the fore in the rhetoric, if not in the conduct, of Irish foreign policy. From his first day in office, MacBride defined a united Ireland as the primary goal of Irish foreign policy. He constantly raised internationally what became known derisively as the ‘sore thumb’ of partition. In the context of a world recovering from global war in which much of Europe and Asia had been battlefields, this approach made Ireland look self-absorbed. It won Ireland few friends and led to a deterioration of relations with Northern Ireland.

Such headline foreign policy actions were accompanied by a number of unpopular government decisions to keep the national finances under control. One such decision was the abandonment of the much-anticipated Aerlínte Éireann transatlantic air service. Yet the government was anxious to promote Shannon airport as a transatlantic hub, and saw that Ireland’s geopolitical position in transatlantic aviation and her possible strategic value to the West in a third world war were worth safeguarding. Dublin was concerned that the United States appeared to take it for granted that its armed forces would have ongoing access to Shannon and even Dublin airports in the event of a global emergency.

In April 1948 Costello accepted an invitation to address the Canadian Bar Association in Ottawa. An itinerary for a tour of Canada was pieced together with the assistance of John Hearne, Ireland’s High Commissioner in Ottawa. The Taoiseach himself took the final decisions in matters concerning the trip. Costello had had limited foreign policy experience as Attorney General in the Cumann na nGaedheal government of the late 1920s, serving on League of Nations delegations and on the Irish delegations to the Imperial Conferences of 1926 and 1929. But as Taoiseach he had little time to devote to foreign relations. Yet Costello’s apparently off-the-cuff announcement at a press function in Canada on 7 September 1948 that Ireland was to leave the Commonwealth and that the External Relations Act of 1936, which set out Ireland’s ‘external association’ with the Commonwealth, would be repealed, became the single foreign policy action by which the Inter-Party Government would be remembered.

After the passage of the External Relations Act by the Oireachtas, neither the Irish nor the British government had sought clarification of Ireland’s exact status in relation to the Commonwealth. Neither government was insistent upon its own interpretation of the Act. DIFP VIII shows that the repeal of the 1936 Act was on the de Valera government’s agenda before De Valera was waiting to see how India negotiated her new relationship with the Commonwealth, after gaining independence, before committing himself to action on the same question. Costello and MacBride had initially indicated that they would not repeal the External Relations Act. Relations with Britain seemed reasonably good following the Inter-Party Government’s arrival in office, and the ground was soon laid for extensive talks on trade and agricultural issues. These led to the conclusion of an Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement in June 1948 which revised and improved the terms of the 1938 Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement.

In July 1948 MacBride told the Dáil that Ireland was in effect no longer a member of the Commonwealth. While the Attlee administration was concerned by these remarks, it was not overly worried. Observers had little doubt that the External Relations Act was to be repealed; the question was when and, more crucially, how. The style and manner of the Inter-Party Government’s actions in August and September 1948 over Ireland’s relationship with the Commonwealth, rather than the fact of repeal, influenced how Britain reacted to Costello’s actions in Canada.

No one expected Costello’s 7 September announcement that the repeal of the External Relations Act was imminent and that Ireland’s formal departure from the Commonwealth and the declaration of the Republic of Ireland would follow in consequence. What to the Irish authorities was a matter of altered legal language and expression regarding the Crown was for Britain a matter of deep political and economic significance. The Commonwealth had changed with the establishment of the new republics of India and Pakistan in 1947, and Britain was entering a period of accelerated decolonisation. In the aftermath of Costello’s statement in Ottawa, the question of how to define Ireland’s relationship with the Commonwealth, in particular regarding citizenship rights, trade and freedom of travel, became critical.

The high drama that followed Costello’s announcement saw MacBride and Tánaiste William Norton, leader of the Labour Party, bring through cabinet a Bill for the repeal of the External Relations Act which transferred certain powers from the British monarch to the President of Ireland. Cabinet procedures were ignored in the rush. As the repeal legislation was being drafted, Dublin fumbled the question of whether Ireland had or had not been invited to attend the Commonwealth prime ministers’ meeting scheduled for October 1948 in London. Dublin finally told London that it hoped to participate in aspects of the conference, but the British government ultimately decided not to invite Ireland to the October meeting.

The impact upon Britain of Costello’s announcement in Canada was far greater than Dublin expected. The British explained that a state could not expect to leave the Commonwealth and still enjoy the rights and privileges of a Commonwealth country. There would be consequences for Ireland and the loss of trade preferences and freedom of movement to Britain were hinted at. However, Canada, Australia and New Zealand encouraged restraint. Ireland and Britain ultimately agreed that there should be constructive discussions towards an orderly Irish departure from the Commonwealth.

Anglo-Irish talks in January 1949 accordingly covered practical, legal and political relations between Britain and Ireland consequent on the declaration of the Republic of Ireland. At the same time the British discussed with the Northern Ireland government the nature of the legislation required to maintain the constitutional position and confirm the territorial integrity of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom following the declaration of the Republic of Ireland in April 1949. MacBride and his officials never anticipated that Britain would respond to the repeal of the External Relations Act by clarifying Northern Ireland’s status within the United Kingdom. The Irish government could only watch as in June 1949 Westminster passed the Ireland Act and created a Unionist veto on Irish unity.

The statutory enhancement of partition in British law became the occasion for a general election in Northern Ireland in February 1949. In response Costello called senior political figures from all parties together to consider how to assist anti-partition candidates in Northern Ireland. This coincided with the development of a more aggressive form of anti-partitionism by the Inter-Party Government. MacBride’s practice of raising partition on all possible occasions was augmented by the restructuring of the Department of External Affairs to provide for a greater focus on partition. In the summer of 1949 an ‘Information Section’, responsible mainly for the development and distribution of anti-partition propaganda, was established. Overseas missions were allowed to spend more money on anti-partition publicity, and the Irish News Agency was established to bring Irish news stories, mainly focusing on partition, to an international audience.

While the years of the Inter-Party Government saw a greater emphasis on anti-partition policy, and while North and South moved further apart as a result of the Ireland Act, the era paradoxically also saw the most successful developments in cross-border co-operation since partition. An agreement to develop the Erne Hydro-Electric scheme, the Foyle Fisheries case which led to high official-level discussions on the establishment of the Foyle Fisheries Commission, and a series of direct North-South ministerial meetings concerning the future of the Dublin to Belfast railway line, marked real progress in North-South relations. While Irish anti-partition activities in Britain, North America and elsewhere held public attention, this progress in cross-border relations received limited publicity and did not attract public interest.

Despite such quiet practical co-operation, at no time did MacBride or his officials attempt to understand the Ulster Unionist position. Indeed the term ‘Unionist’ rarely appears in documents emanating from the Department of External Affairs. Cross-border co-operation was seen only as a means to short-term technical ends. Wider plans which would give persons representing constituencies in Northern Ireland the right to sit in the Dáil were deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General, and MacBride opposed the development of a ‘Council of Ireland’ which would bring representatives of North and South together.

MacBride saw a parallel between the partition of Ireland and post-war schemes for Palestine and Israel. Ireland refused to give de jure recognition to Israel until 1963, citing Vatican policy on the Holy Places in Jerusalem as the reason. Instead in February 1949 the Cabinet agreed to the de facto recognition of Israel, making Ireland one of the last states to do so. MacBride also saw strong parallels between Ireland and Israel when it came to their freedom struggles. He toyed with the idea of making some form of diplomatic appointment to Tel Aviv, but ultimately none was made. By mid-April 1951 MacBride envisaged Ireland’s complete de jure recognition of Israel. The announcement was to take place in May 1951, but by then the Inter-Party Government was facing into a general election and ultimately no action was taken.

In continuation of the policies of the de Valera government, Ireland’s refugee policy remained ungenerous during the Inter-Party Government. MacBride played a leading role in the drafting of the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Human Rights, but its aims were not seen in practice in Ireland. One hundred Jewish refugee children arrived in Ireland in 1948, but even this created public controversy and there was little openness to those in need across Europe. Foreign aid was wound down, and people seeking refuge in Ireland were generally dealt with without compassion. The official belief was that while Ireland remained unable to provide a livelihood for all of its own people it could not be expected to do so for others.

A comparable foreign policy issue was the overseas adoption, mainly by people in the United States, of Irish infants. Ireland lacked laws setting out the legal basis for adoption, and adoption was carried out mainly through religious bodies under instruction from the Catholic hierarchy. Some officials in the Department of External Affairs signalled concern at what was being done, but as their role was limited to issuing passports for Irish infants about to be adopted overseas, the Department turned a blind eye and facilitated the travel arrangements of the children concerned.

The arrival in Ireland, sometimes by clandestine methods, of individuals from the former Axis bloc was a theme in DIFP VIII. The case of Andrija Artuković, former Minister of the Interior of the wartime pro-Nazi Independent State of Croatia, has attracted considerable attention since it was first known in the 1950s that he had resided in Ireland between 1947 and 1948. Using an assumed identity (Alois Anich) Artuković applied for a visa to travel to Ireland while he prepared to emigrate onwards. He maintained he was fleeing Yugoslav Communism. Knowing nothing of his true identity External Affairs granted Artuković entry into Ireland. Only in 1950, after Artuković had moved to the United States, did his true identity become known to the Irish authorities, after which his return to Ireland was prevented.

Dutch Nazi collaborator Willem Sassen attempted to develop connections with the Irish authorities in order to write anti-partition propaganda. While this came to nothing, External Affairs was well aware of his past. MacBride personally facilitated the travel to Ireland of the former German military intelligence operative Helmut Clissmann, who had had pre-war and wartime links with the IRA and who was married to an Irishwoman. In MacBride’s last months in office attempts were made by Bonn to appoint Jupp Hoven, who moved in similar wartime circles to Clissmann, as Counsellor of the German Legation in Dublin. Hoven’s appointment was, however, overruled by MacBride’s successor as Minister for External Affairs, Frank Aiken.

Despite its pro-Western outlook, Ireland was unenthusiastic about joining the various post-war collective security pacts proposed by the Western Allies. Joining a pact of which Britain was a member would mean acceptance of the reality that British military forces were stationed in Northern Ireland. Such an acceptance of partition was deemed impossible. Ireland downplayed British hints in March 1948 that an invitation to join the Brussels Treaty would be issued to Dublin. Then in spring 1949 MacBride privately indicated to the American government that Ireland completely agreed with the aims of NATO and would be prepared to join the alliance if Washington first persuaded Britain to end partition. This gamble failed because it underestimated the strength of Anglo-American relations and did not recognize Ireland’s low geopolitical and strategic value in the plans of the Western Allies. NATO had sufficient access to facilities in Northern Ireland for Atlantic defence purposes. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 further strengthened the Anglo-American alliance and this also highlighted the futility of trying to use the prospect of Ireland’s NATO membership as a lever for ending partition.

In sharp contrast to Ireland’s refusal to join NATO, in 1948 MacBride enthusiastically seized the opportunity for Ireland to become a founder member of the Council of Europe, a body which he initially thought might be the nucleus of a new Western European economic and political entity. Ireland also warmly welcomed the May 1950 initiative of France and Germany to pool their coal and steel industries in the initial step to what would in 1951 become the European Coal and Steel Community. Ireland subsequently joined the European Payments Union, although her currency linkage to Sterling at parity and membership of the Sterling area remained paramount.

Ireland’s main international currency and trade links remained with Britain. Relations between the Department of Finance in Dublin and the Treasury in London were close. In summer 1949 Sterling’s devaluation against the dollar topped the agenda of British-Irish relations. As Ireland had a dollar deficit and only limited capacity to earn dollars and because Ireland’s foreign currency reserves were in Sterling British devaluation threatened Ireland’s foreign economic interests. Yet when devaluation finally came on 18 September 1949, Dublin received only very limited advance notice from London.

In the spring of 1950 John Hearne became Ireland’s first Ambassador to the United States. As a result of wartime neutrality Ireland had a difficult post-war relationship with Washington. The traditionally anglophile State Department viewed Ireland with a mixture of indifference tempered with outright hostility. Despite good relations with a number of senators and congressmen and with some officials in the State Department, Irish diplomats nevertheless lacked strong ties with senior political figures on Capitol Hill, in the White House and generally across the Truman administration. Congressman John Fogarty’s attempts to link continued American aid to Britain to the ending of partition proved fruitless. The Special Relationship was impervious to such manoeuvres.

The legacy of Ireland’s wartime neutrality was compounded in some American eyes by Ireland’s refusal to join NATO, and the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 led to some in Washington questioning where Ireland really stood in relation to the Cold War and support for the West. Hearne’s meetings with Truman were relatively friendly, and the new ambassador and his colleague Joseph Brennan developed a strong relationship with Truman’s Appointments Secretary, Matthew Connelly and with Truman’s Secretary of the Navy, Frank P. Matthews, both of whom had Irish roots. However, personal efforts by Seán MacBride to gain military aid and training facilities from the United States for the Irish Defence Forces failed. American officials understood from conversations that MacBride had in mind an Irish-American bilateral defence agreement, but MacBride never explicitly mentioned, and in fact shied away from, such an option in correspondence. Matthews was close to the President but was a waning force in the Truman administration, and his standing diminished further following a number of badly received speeches he delivered on the Korean War. He was appointed Ambassador to Ireland in 1951, but died the next year.

MacBride actively sought urgent information on events in Korea from all Irish diplomatic missions. Hearne’s reports from Washington, along with those of Joseph Brennan, followed by Dulanty’s from London and Seán Murphy’s from Ottawa, were the most informative. However Ireland’s absence from the United Nations because the Soviet Union had vetoed its membership in 1946, and Ireland’s non-involvement in the western military alliances, meant that despite the best efforts of Irish diplomats the information they obtained on the Korean War was often second-hand or diluted. When it seemed that the Soviet withdrawal from the Security Council over Korea would allow Ireland’s admission to the United Nations, Dublin moved to quash any suggestion that it would be a good opportunity to revive Ireland’s application for UN membership.

Ireland’s perspective on the Korean War highlights the state’s lack of an on-the-ground presence in Asia. Relations with India were good, as a result of ties forged between the respective nationalist élites during the revolutionary era. MacBride hoped that India could assist in the protection of Irish interests in the region, particularly in China. These mainly concerned Irish missionaries and a small number of Irish nationals domiciled across the region. External Affairs’ understanding of the Chinese revolution of 1949, like its understanding of the Korean War, was limited.

By the summer of 1951, as MacBride prepared to leave Iveagh House, Ireland’s external relations were increasingly international in scope but limited in context by design and reach. While the state had a definite series of international interests to enhance and protect, it did so in an orbit somewhat removed from the major foreign relations actors of the period. MacBride had greatly overestimated Ireland’s geopolitical bargaining power. Like other significant Irish figures, including de Valera, he was under an illusion in believing that if the world could realize the injustice of partition it would be ended and a united Ireland achieved. The question of how Ireland could most effectively and actively play a positive role in the postwar international system remained unanswered.

Records of 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.

As the Second World War drew to a close a further 300 series was established, to be joined by a 400 series in the later 1940s. These two file series remained the core of the Department’s general registry for the next twenty years. Individual file reference numbers became increasingly complex within this system as the Department of External Affairs grew in size and scope. For example the number code 305 was initially allocated to political files, but this classification grew in size and complexity as the Registry at External Affairs grew. To take one case, file 305/57 and its sub-parts deal with the European Recovery Program, while 305/14 and its sub-parts deal mainly with Northern Ireland and partition. The 305/57 sub-series contains over 500 files and at their most complex such series can contain files such as 305/57/205/2/2, this being the second sub-part of the second part of file 305/57/2, or files such as 305/57/2 and 305/57/II where the Arabic and Roman numerals each designate a different file.

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. 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.

Material generated in Irish missions abroad is held at the National Archives in Dublin in the Embassies Series collection. For the late 1940s and early 1950s this material covers the missions in London, Washington, the Holy See, Paris, Madrid, Ottawa, Rome, Berne, Lisbon, Canberra, Stockholm, Buenos Aires, The Hague and Bonn. Due to weeding and routine destruction of documents the Embassies Series is often patchy. The collections for Madrid and Paris are the most complete. 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.

In recent years the National Archives of Ireland has undertaken a renumbering of its Department of External Affairs collection. Details of this change can be found on the National Archives website (www.national archives.ie). With reference to the material contained in DIFP IX, the former ‘300 Series’ is now known as DFA/5, the former ‘400 Series’ as DFA/6 and the Secretary’s Files (A, P and S sub-series) as DFA/10. The main files from the Department of the Taoiseach are known as the ‘S-files’ series. They begin at S1 and progress numerically (S1, S2, S3 etc.) in a roughly chronological order. In a similar renumbering of its Department of the Taoiseach collection, Cabinet Minutes can now be found in the TSCH/2/ series and the ‘S files’ collection is now TSCH/3/. In all cases mentioned the original file reference remains within the new reference. Hence the former ‘300 series’ file 305/134 becomes DFA/5/305/134 and S14921A becomes TSCH/3/ S14921A.

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 editors, to select the most appropriate documents for publication. Due to the rise in the number of missions and the size of Ireland’s diplomatic network it has not been possible to cover communications from and between all Ireland’s overseas missions and the selection within this volume has been prioritised to cover the main areas of foreign policy.

All previous volumes in the DIFP series have drawn on the private papers of the Minister for External Affairs in office at the time covered by each volume. Unfortunately this volume does not include material from the private papers of Seán MacBride, Minister for External Affairs from 18 February 1948 to 13 June 1951. That collection is in private hands and terms of research access acceptable to all parties could not be agreed. The editors have sought to minimise this regrettable omission by including a broad range of official documents written by Seán MacBride so that his views and actions as Minister for External Affairs are described in his own words.

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. 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.

At some points in the text the footnotes refer to documents that were ‘not printed’ or ‘not located’. 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. It is a common occurrence in documents typed personally by Ambassador to the Vatican Joseph P. Walshe to find that Walshe left the ‘Caps Lock’ on whilst typing. As a result, when words or clauses appear in capitals in his correspondence it is generally unclear if Walshe meant to highlight a name or issue or if it was a genuine mistake. The text below has left Walshe’s typing as found, even though at times documents look peculiar and out of style with surrounding material.

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 a number of cases in this volume documents are from specific departments to the government or cabinet and it is not possible from these documents to discover the identity or identities of authors.

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.

Encrypted telegrams were sent in three forms of code. ‘Personal Code’ was person-specific, usually used only by heads of missions. ‘Dearg’ (‘Red’, in the Irish language) code was the highest level of encryption, and then came ordinary code.

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.


Many people were involved in the production of Volume IX of Documents on Irish Foreign Policy. The assistance of the following is particularly acknowledged:

At the Department of Foreign Affairs: Niall Burgess, Secretary General of the Department, and his predecessor, David Cooney; Marianne Bolger, Clare Hanratty, Eamon Hickey, Frances Kiernan, James Kingston, Tim Mawe, Jean McManus, and Maureen Sweeney.

At the Royal Irish Academy: Professor Mary Daly, President of the Academy; Laura Mahoney, Executive Secretary of the Academy; Dr. James Quinn, Executive Editor of the Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography; Ruth Hegarty, Managing Editor of Publications; Pauric Dempsey, Director of Public Affairs and Maeve Casserly, who was an intern with DIFP in 2013.

At the National Archives: Tom Quinlan, Acting Director, and his predecessor, Frances McGee, for their generosity in providing access to the facilities and collections under their care; Aideen Ireland, Mary Mackey, Helen Hewson, Zoë Reid, Kevin Forkan and Liz McEvoy.

At the University College Dublin Archives Department (School of History and Archives): Seamus Helferty, Kate Manning and Orna Somerville. We would also like to thank Dr. John McCafferty and Dr. Conor Mulvagh of the School of History and Archives.

At the Institute of Public Administration, Richard Boyle, Hannah Ryan and Carolyn Gormley.

At the Central Bank of Ireland Archives, Nicola Stewart. We would also like to thank the Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Professor Patrick Honohan, for permission to include material from the Central Bank of Ireland’s archives.

At the Dublin Diocesan Archives, Noelle Dowling. We would like to thank the Most Reverend Diarmuid Martin D.D., Archbishop of Dublin, for permission to include material from the private papers of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid.

At The Military Archives: Comdt Pádraic Kennedy, Hugh Beckett and Cécile Gordon.

We would also like to thank Dr. Marc Dierikx of the Institute for Netherlands History, Dr. Sacha Zala of the Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland series and Dr. Greg Donaghy of the Documents on Canadian External Relations series for their help concerning material relating to Andrija Artuković and Willem Sassen, and also Dr. Louise Fischer of the Israel State Archives for her help identifying and completing biographical details for Israeli diplomat Zvi Loker. Former Secretaries General of the Department of Foreign Affairs Noel Dorr and Andrew O’Rourke, former Ambassador Gearóid O’Cléirigh and Helen Kennedy, daughter of the late Ambassador Eamonn Kennedy, answered a number of historical queries. Professor Christophe Gillessen and Oliver O’Hanlon provided assistance concerning specific aspects of Ireland’s relations with France. Stephen Bourke and Ashley King helped draft many of the footnotes and Dr. David McCullagh of RTÉ was an ongoing source of good advice.

Finally, we are indebted to Helen Litton, who copy-edited the volume, Julitta Clancy, who indexed the volume, Carole Lynch, who typeset the text and our typist, Maura O’Shea.


Catriona Crowe

Ronan Fanning

Michael Kennedy

Dermot Keogh

Eunan O’Halpin

Kate O’Malley

11 August 2014