No. 121 NAI DFA ES Rome 1921-1923

Memorandum by John Hagan on the situation in Ireland as seen by the Vatican

Rome, 12 December 1921

In the course of a long conversation to-day with Mgr Borgongini, Pro-Secretary of State, the Rector of the Irish College discussed various aspects of the actual situation in Ireland. In the course of that conversation the future came in for a share of attention; and among the rest the question of Ireland and Foreign Relations. This particular point had been discussed in a conversation some days before, when the Rector had expressed the opinion that the terms of the treaty, in defining Dominion Status, seemed to imply that Ireland would have as much right to send representatives to foreign courts in special cases as Canada has to send a representative to Washington.

The Rector's observations apparently were discussed in high quarters in the interval; for Mgr Borgongini evidently came prepared for further discussion of the subject. His view was - and it is right to remark that he is a sincere friend to Ireland, just as he is a most devoted servant of the Holy See - that, granted that the clauses defining Dominion Status were to be interpreted in the sense indicated by the Rector, there would be very special reasons for the new Free State taking steps to have a representative at the Vatican. He added that these reasons, which do not seem to require elaboration, could hardly be opposed by England, particularly if supported by the influence of the Holy See. The only real reason to the contrary that could be objected, he pointed out, would be to the effect that such a step would be inimical to the interests of Imperial unity; but he added that there was a precedent on the other side, namely, the case of Bavaria which always had its own representative in Rome, because it was predominantly Catholic, even though it was a partner in a state which was not only predominantly Protestant but was most jealous of its imperial unity.

Mgr Borgongini was careful to insist that he had no authority for putting forward these views; but he was clearly anxious that they should be considered by those responsible; and the Rector has little doubt but that what he said has the sanction of other and most influential personages.

The Rector has only to add that the sending of a regularly recognised representative to the Holy See would not only give the country greater standing in the eyes of the world, but would save representative Irishmen in Rome from the very embarrassing position in which they will find themselves in case the proposed treaty should take effect more or less as it stands.

While Mgr Borgongini viewed the situation mainly as it affected the Holy See, the Rector deems it his duty to mention that the distinguished prelate, who is successor to Mgr Cerretti, is also actuated by feelings of sincere regard for the Irish people.

These are the main outlines of the conversation which will it is hoped convey a sufficiently clear idea of what was meant on both sides.

John Hagan

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