No. 246 NAI DFA ES Rome 1921-1923

Extract from a letter from John Hagan to George Gavan Duffy (Dublin)1

(Personal and Confidential)

Rome, 20 February 1922

Dear Mr Gavan Duffy
[matter omitted]
Coming now to deal with some of the points in your letter I think I may begin by recalling that you probably know my mind on the subject of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Rome, and by Rome I mean the Holy See. But I may as well repeat more or less what I said on former occasions in this connection. As briefly as possible my view amounts to this that as long as Ireland in going to be connected with England in any way (and that the connection is not yet at an end goes without saying) and as long as England manages to have her interests looked after here by so numerous and influential a body of representatives, lay and ecclesiastical, so long will it be most desirable to have not only an ecclesiastical but also a lay representative from Ireland in this city.

If the Free State therefore was in working order my opinion would be strongly in favour of their having an accredited representative on the spot, that is of course on the assumption that the British government or the terms of the treaty will allow of this being done. I have some reason for thinking that provided the British government raised no objection, the Holy See would not only raise no difficulty but would even lend every help towards its accomplishment.

As regards the other side of the story, namely, a Nuncio in Ireland, I know nothing in favour of it and I know many considerations that would render it most undesirable, so much so that if this were laid down by the Holy See as a condition for recognising a diplomatic representative here, I should unhesitatingly be in favour of a flat refusal; and speaking very frankly, not only should I do nothing to bring it about, but I should find myself altogether justified in placing every difficulty in the way. In this connection one or two observations

may be useful to have in mind. There can of course be only two classes of persons in Ireland who would or could wish to see a Nuncio there, namely, a certain class of priests and a certain class of politicians. The former would relish the idea on the very mistaken assumption that his presence would relieve the pressure of the episcopal yoke; and the latter would be influenced by the consideration that it would be a simple way of getting a whack at the bishops. As regards the clergy I have experience enough to know that they would get the surprise of their lives; while as for the politicians, if they will take a friend's advice, it would be to the effect that a Nuncio would act as a boomerang against themselves and would do harm only to the bishops of real worth. As long as Ireland is connected with England it will be to the interest of the latter to see that only subservient bishops are appointed, and the Nuncio would be the man for that.

This particular consideration is rendered ten times more important by the fact that the old method of electing bishops is likely to come to an end and that it [will] be replaced by a new system which will work secretly and will enable the British government to exclude any man who has salt enough in him to make him worth opposing and of course excluding. If that new system is allowed to pass unchallenged you may take for granted that you need count on few bishops to lend a helping hand in a struggle for separation at the end of half a dozen years, just as you might count on the same amount of help if a Nuncio were there in the interval. I hope I have made my mind as clear as possible in these respects.

Only on one condition could I see an excuse for admitting a Nuncio, namely, the condition that he be non-Italian. I need not elaborate the reasons.

Regarding the present hour it would be much easier to say what ought to be omitted than it would be to lay down what should be done. One consideration however will I think suffice till the clouds roll by, namely, that arising out of the advisability of the Dail, or Irish government, or whatever other body may be in power, having their agent directly accredited to the Vatican and to no other purpose or government, if they wish him to take steps ultimately intended to end in diplomatic relations. I gather from your letter that Count O'Byrne is not suitably furnished in this respect. This I think is a great pity and makes advance practically impossible. But in the long run it is a matter for you rather than for me, and I may safely conclude that you know what you are doing. In any event, as I have already remarked, the uncertainties of the hour do not seem calculated to render progress very easy in the direction I have been discussing.

With every best wish to self and family,

Believe me to remain,
Yours very truly,
J. Hagan

1 Not Printed.

2 Reply to No. 221.

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