No. 29 NAI DFA ES Paris 1920

Extract from a letter from George Gavan Duffy to Dublin
(GD 1 of 1920)

Paris, 30 January 1920

[Matter omitted]
I further enclose a separate statement as to some recent French articles on Ireland. For some weeks past and especially since the new year there has been a keen revival of interest in Ireland, fed by the ill-will to England. We are only very indirectly responsible, if indeed we can take any credit at all, for most of these articles. A good lead was given to others by 'La Lanterne' in giving great prominence to our matter; the editor asked for an appointment and I gave him an interview, which he published with fair accuracy, adding in, however, his own views on the Ashtown affair1 and on the League of Nations; since then he has given us excellent publicity several times. His paper is essentially the organ of Freemasonry in France and it is an amazing sign of the times and of the French temper towards England that he should have gone out of his way to seek me out; we had seen the paper some 3 months ago and nothing whatever had come of our visit at that time. He was very anxious to be allowed to say that Ireland, though Catholic, was not Roman Catholic! And he had great difficulty in understanding how Irishmen could be Catholics and Republicans at the same time, since 'a Catholic must be a reactionary'. I have also just had a satisfactory interview with M. Jean Herbette, the foreign editor of the 'Temps' and the most influential journalist on foreign affairs in France. His paper had published a hysterical attack on Ireland by an English bigot of the 'Morning Post' type and he wanted to tone down an expression in our reply; in our list of atrocities, he objected to the word 'murders' and said he could not publish that; but he agreed to say 'persons killed by violence of military or police' and he volunteered to publish an article on the recent elections, by the figures of which he was greatly struck, if I would give him statistics. He has become more friendly since his first interview with Childers; he recognises that the Home Rule bill of Ll. George's speech is already dead; he wants to see a settlement, but is not yet ready to back the Republic, though strongly blaming English policy in Ireland. He is in very close touch with the French Foreign Office.

English propaganda.

There is very little propaganda by way of special articles going on; and this method seems to have been dropped by the English Foreign Office in favour of the cheaper and more effective plan of subsidising the press-agencies in London; these are flooding the Continental press with wires as to 'outrages' in Ireland. The municipal elections were, however, very satisfactorily reported. In order to enable London to counteract the hostile agencies, I am compiling
a list of the papers in which each wire from each agency respectively is reproduced. I hope in this way to make a survey of the whole machinery of English propaganda in the French press; the work is slow and tiresome because most of the telegrams are printed without giving the name of any agency and one can only arrive at a result by a process of deduction from a number of wires appearing in the same set of newspapers over a period of weeks; Dick Humphrys has been most helpful in co-operating in this matter, in his spare time.

To counteract English propaganda.

The publication of definite pieces of news from Ireland and of answers to definite lies in the French press is still a very difficult problem. The French suspicion of and dislike for what they call propaganda is so deep-rooted that, even now, we cannot secure any publicity worth speaking of for any circular telegram or message emanating officially from this Delegation, though the case is now quite different as regards special articles offered to a single paper. For instance, we sent round the Paris and provincial press of France our letter of protest against the League of Nations ten days ago; this was sent out in good form, properly typed and easy to print; it was sent out on the very day of the first meeting of the League's Council and it expressed views that are held by large numbers of French people; and the protest itself read well in the French version; so that here was an excellent opportunity of testing the French press; the result was that three Paris papers gave extracts from the letter and the others failed even to mention it; and it hardly received any mention in the provincial press. This is certainly not to be ascribed to pro-English bias in the press generally nor to any hostility to Ireland, but simply to the general system of ignoring all circulars of a propagandist character, whether they come from us, from the Jugo-Slavs, from the Egyptians or from the Koreans.

That is a good example of the kind of difficulty to be met here. Of course 7/8 of the papers would have published that letter for cash down and delegations are, no doubt, considered fair game in the matter of money. I have been trying to get over the difficulty by getting an agreement with one of the regular press-agencies, which would undertake for a fee to send out our messages two or three times a week, as occasion offered; but so far without success. An alternative is to get a press agent who would be in a position to place Irish messages in three or four papers at a time, but it is not easy to find the right man. However, this matter is being pursued.

Incidentally, the French War Museum and Library, as to which we have already written you, could become a record office for French writers who want to deal with Irish topics, for the director is willing and eager to stock all our pamphlets and so forth from the days of the Hungarian pamphlet2 onwards and it seems to me that it would be worth while for you to delegate someone to supply him either directly or through the French Consul. The sub-director in special charge of Irish matters (as well as English) who knows a good deal about Ireland and is exceedingly friendly and speaks English very well is M. Maurice Bourgeois.

I enclose a list of persons to whom you might see your way to sending, free, a subscription to 'Young Ireland'. They are all persons who want to help and I don't think the subscriptions would be thrown away.

One of them is Fr. Moisant, S.J. He has been very useful and is closely following every move with the keenest sympathy and insight and is writing a good deal on Ireland. I presume that in a case like his, where there has really been 'value received' you would not think it amiss for us to recognise his work by a present on, say, St. Patrick's Day, for there is no reason why such a man should put himself out for us as he has done, and I am sure he would much appreciate the token.

Literature for the French.

A new supply of the best pamphlets would be very welcome. We are running out of everything, except our own pamphlets.

We have the pamphlet on the 'Irish Republic and the French Press' on sale in several bookshops and in all the kiosques along the main boulevards of central Paris. A Mr. Fielding, an Irishman from London, representing an English brewery in Belgium, has got it put on sale in all the principal bookshops of Brussels and at Antwerp.

M. MacWhite, who is an active worker, could easily get 'Young Ireland' put on sale in the kiosques, with every likelihood of a gradually increasing demand, but has not been able to get in touch with the manager of the paper, to whom he wrote for this purpose.

I have only a proof of 'The First of the Small Nations' and would be glad to have the pamphlet for distribution.

The N.[orth] King St. pamphlet is so good for French purposes that I am having it translated by a Breton named Weisse for reprinting here.

Consular work.

May I again remind you of the great importance and, I think, urgency of appointing a whole-time consul here and of having a permanent exhibition of samples of Irish goods? The French have just set up such a show of samples of French manufactures in Paris.

I enclose a letter from D.M. Hales who writes frequently and seems to be active in the Italian press of his locality. He sent me for Madam Markievicz a book on co-operation in Italy, which she will no doubt have received per Mr. Smith Gordon who took charge of it.

I also enclose a letter from Count Gerald O'Kelly, who states that he is going to make his headquarters at Berne.

Messrs. Dunne and O'Loughlin are both active in Denmark; the former has supplied a good deal of literature to all the principal public and parliamentary libraries throughout Scandinavia.

Irish Club.

The project of establishing an Irish social centre in Paris has not materialised. There are very few Irishmen here who would join; there are some 500 Irish girls here, most of them governesses and they belong to a Catholic society run by the Irish priests of the English-speaking church at the Avenue Hoche. We have a little ceilidh every Saturday for the Irish students and Sinn Fein friends generally. At Christmas we asked the students of the newly reopened Irish College, who number 29, to a tea here, but their rector would not let them out.

American press.

At the express wish of Frank Walsh, we are still continuing the services as press-agent of Mr. Butler. America has sent money to enable us to pay his inordinate salary. He knows no French and is of very little use, save with the American correspondents who take freely the various articles he brings them. These consist chiefly of materials which we receive from the press propaganda department at home. Sean T. O'Ceallaigh has been looking after this matter and finds the materials useful as interviews. Butler is clever and energetic, and as long as America is satisfied to go on paying him we feel obliged to keep him on.


We are still in touch with the Zagloul3 delegation, but have published nothing about co-operation, as we do not know your present view; there seems now to be no secret about the co-operation in America and it is obvious that England is in a very chastened frame of mind and anxious to settle with Egypt, on account of possibilities in the East. There does not seem to be any foundation for the English rumours as to the Delegation weakening in their demand for independence; some of the members are weaker than others, but the no-compromise party on the Delegation and in Egypt appear to be in a strong and decisive majority and in the councils of the Delegation majority rule is observed.


Presumably you would approve of calling on the new ambassador here? I see that the London 'Daily Express' says Baron von Horst has come out on behalf of the Irish Republic, in Berlin; we know nothing of this and there has been no further correspondence with him since I wrote you on 7th November4 last as to the doubt about him. But the 'Traveller'5 referred to in that letter wrote again strongly urging that Dail should take up the question of looking into von Horst's shipping scheme, already detailed to you in the same letter.

Sean T. O'Ceallaigh has been ill for more than a fortnight and for some days was very ill indeed with tonsillitis; he had as much as 103 degrees temperature. He is decidedly better, but not able to get up for long nor to eat solid things yet. He is getting all possible care and the doctor is well pleased with his progress. He intends to go to Rome when he is well and then to return home. I understand he has sent you our League of Nations letter and I will leave him to deal in due course with matters with which he has been more immediately in touch.

As to my return, I am most willing to do as you may think best. I do not know your view of the value at present and hereafter of a political (as distinct from the consular) representative here. My own opinion is that the personnel of this Delegation is quite a subsidiary matter and that the important thing from the point of view of definitely internationalising our case during the peace year has been the fact of the presence in Paris of a delegation from the Irish Government; and that this will be largely the case in future. I explained this to Smith Gordon when he told me that R.[obert] B.[arton] wanted me back in connection with his work and should, in any case, be glad to know your decision and how long you contemplate I should stay here. I have to make arrangements about 39 Mespil Road one way or the other, according to your directions as to my return.

I know that things at home are excessively difficult; I fully realise this, but you will not think I am making any unreasonable complaint in calling your attention to the fact that I have had no communication of any sort or kind from the Executive nor any instructions from any member thereof (save from Robert Barton as to the Bank) since the end of October; nor, so far as I am aware, has Sean T.

No doubt, Diarmuid's [O'Hegarty] imprisonment is some considerable handicap to correspondence. But for a long time back it has been difficult to get replies to letters and whether in present circumstances you welcome the infliction of a long letter like this one, I do not know.

Mise, le mór mheas,
Seoirse Ghabháin Uí Dhubhthaigh

1 An attempt to assassinate the Lord Lieutenant Sir John French.

2 Arthur Griffith's 1904 pamphlet The resurrection of Hungary.

3 Saad Zaghloul, the leader of the Egyptian nationalist movement during and after World War One.

4 Not printed.

5Gerard Hamilton, a friend of Gavan Duffy's.

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