No. 276 NAI DFA ES Box 1 File 13

Memorandum 'The future of our foreign affairs' by George Gavan Duffy

Dublin, April 1922

The insularity which for a hundred years had characterised Irish modes of thought and life was the most fruitful source of the disappearance of Ireland from the perspective of the Continent prior to the Rebellion of 1916.

To be ignored was to be non-existent and broadly speaking the Continental considered Ireland up to half a dozen years ago as part and parcel of England. And she was not even a separate part except when her supposed drunken and lazy habits were emphasised by English propaganda.

What a change from the two preceding centuries! Ireland was treated as a country with distinct national rights by every Nation on the Continent, and her Envoys sent in secret were received by foreign Sovereigns. The tradition of Ireland's contribution to World civilisation was still strong. Her Armies fought on every battlefield and if they fought under foreign Princes their battles were nevertheless waged for Ireland.

To the future historian with larger perspectives than are possible to us the torpor of the Irish people during the 19th Century may possibly appear to have an adequate explanation; but it seems to us altogether inexplicable that group after group of leaders should have been content to allow England to utterly destroy our reputation and prestige on the Continent. No land agitations, no famines, no emigration problems can suffice to excuse the sporadic and feeble nature of their attempts to keep in touch with Europe.

The strength of World opinion, and the loss of prestige to England - so reluctantly admitted in his speech of the 12th April by Mr. Churchill - were the most powerful factors in the situation which caused England's surrender on the 6th December 1921.

It is lamentable to have to admit to ourselves that a carefully organised campaign of propaganda in Europe at any time during the past seventy years might have produced the same situation and saved us the precious lives sacrificed, and the sufferings endured since 1916. There were always flagrant acts of injustice to be exposed and always advantages to be obtained by Continental Nations from Ireland's friendship, and during the long period of England's 'splendid isolation' we could have damaged her prestige at least to the extent admitted by Mr. Churchill.

World opinion however created has admittedly been the prime factor in the obtaining of our new status.

Obviously unless they could have relied on the strength of the Irish people, Irish delegates abroad would have been of little avail. The facts were supplied by the brave deeds of the men and women at home, and the quantity and quality of the facts made the task of the delegates a comparatively easy one. Yet notwithstanding the tremendous stream of Irish propagandist literature scattered over Europe and America and the excellence of the Bulletin published in the four principal capitals of the Continent it would have been easy in time of peace to organise a more extensive and more efficient method of propaganda which would have been less dependent on a particular category of facts in Ireland.

Our foreign department is in its infancy and its work is less apparent to the people than that of the departments which affect them more immediately in ordinary life, yet its functions and its progressive evolution towards greater and greater efficiency ought to be a subject of intense interest to them. Our Foreign department is in some senses the most important for on it, to a large extent, will depend the maintenance of our present freedom and the mere existence of Ministers Plenipotentiaries in foreign States will be a guarantee to our own people and to foreigners of the extent of that freedom.

Canada has acquired the absolute right of having a Minister Plenipotentiary in Washington. Sir Robert Borden - most conservative of conservatives - has again and again declared that Canada alone had the right to look after Canadian affairs. Even Mr. Massey, whose narrow imperialism is notorious, stated on the 2nd September 1919 in the New Zealand Parliament House that the Dominions had 'ceased to be dependencies of the Empire' and had become 'partners.' Mr. Massey's successors in office will doubtless make up for his timidity by giving logical effect abroad to his conclusions about N. Zealand's status. Mr. Smuts is strongest of all in asserting the 'absolute equality' of the Dominions among the Nations of the World.

I do not wish for a moment to compare this ancient Irish Nation to these new countries - which until recently were mere Colonies of Britain. But if these Countries are on the point of placing their Ambassadors in the capitals of the World to proclaim their sovereignty and to exercise it fully it is surely essential that Ireland should be adequately represented too.

Belgium has diplomatic representatives in twenty nine capitals and her trade interests are looked after by over sixty Consular staffs. Belgium has internal difficulties somewhat similar to those in Ireland and externally she is in danger of being absorbed by two constantly warring powers. Her zeal and tenacity in emphasising her sovereignty throughout the World have alone prevented this absorption.

Ireland's influence in the World can be immeasurably greater than that of Belgium within ten years if our State is conducted on wise national lines at home and on lines of vigorous determination abroad keeping always in view those changes in the relative strength of the great powers which are destined to arise in the near future.

What are our present difficulties in the building up of a foreign department? Beyond question the greatest of all is the absence of material. Our national poverty, our hopelessly deficient secondary education, and above all, our isolation from European thought and ways of life are only some of the evils which have left us largely unprepared to take our place on an equal footing with other Nations abroad.

Besides the obvious quality of sound judgement a diplomatic representative must be highly educated and must possess a European culture. The degree of a man's success as a foreign representative depends entirely on his power of adapting himself to the milieu in which he will inevitably find himself, and if he is a stranger to the culture of European society he will in nine cases out of ten - do more harm than good whatever his gifts of character may be. We can- not force our narrow farouche insularity on continentals. The only alternative is to come out of the slough and be European with the Europeans.

Plans must therefore be matured at once to send suitable young men abroad to acquire the necessary formation. While pursuing a definite programme of post graduate courses at the Universities and learning the language they must pass some hours every day at the Irish delegation in order to become initiated into the details of its organisation. They must get into touch with the diverse elements in the national life of the country by joining clubs, circles, and debating societies.

It goes without saying that a knowledge of at least two Continental languages besides Irish and English should be laid down as a fundamental condition to accepting any Candidate.

Is such a scheme feasible? Undoubtedly. The amount of money required to pay the expenses of such probationers would be only a very small burden on the State budget compared to the immense advantages to be gained by its adoption.

It is the only way left open to us and if adopted it will ensure two things essential to our life as a Nation: that Ireland's prestige and consequent international relations will be worthily maintained and developed, and that the circle of our defences need never be so narrowed down as to involve the people at home.

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