No. 314 NAI DFA EA 231/5

Handwritten Confidential Report from Count Gerald O'Kelly de Gallagh to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Paris, 5 December 1929

My Dear Walshe,

I expect you are back again in Dublin and up to your eyes in work. How did things go at the conference in London? I wish I could have got over for an hour's talk with you, though I don't suppose you would have had an hour to give me. And I myself have been so rushed that I literally have not had time to sit down and write you a decent letter, much as I wanted to.

The Conference on the treatment of Foreigners adjourned without a decision. I have sent you an official letter to that effect today.1 And now that the conference is over and that I have just received a notification of my appointment as Saorstát representative on the forthcoming aerial navigation conference, I would like to raise the question of the principle of the personnel of the legations being used as delegates to conferences at all, otherwise than in very exceptional circumstances.

My experience of the last four weeks had persuaded me that the principle is entirely wrong. The post of Irish Minister here is a whole time job. So is the post of delegate to one of these conferences. In many cases this conference has sat till 7 or 8 p.m. and on more than one occasion it has sat till after 1 am. In the last month I attended the conference only spasmodically but, even so, it took up an immense amount of time - the conference building is nearly 7 kilometres from the office - and I felt I was giving very bad service while I was at it, because it was largely technical and I was not in the least familiar with the matter. It may be said that Barrington was there for the technical end and that I had only to look after the political implications. That is so, but, to begin with, one never knew when political implications might arise out of a purely technical discussion, and, furthermore, I can quite conceive of circumstances in which the political implications of a given discussion might have escaped me owing to my unfamiliarity with the subject. I have formed the opinion that, for conferences of this nature, the local minister is the worst possible type of delegate, because his official position gives him a standing and authority out of all keeping with his knowledge - or ignorance - of the subject under discussion. I believe our delegations should be confined exclusively to experts sent out 'ad hoc'. If it is thought necessary to make the local minister first delegate, 'pour le forme' - though I disagree with the idea - he should be fully supported by home experts, and should only be expected to intervene, as their spokesman, on very rare occasions. Otherwise his presence is a source of weakness, not of strength, to the delegation. It is interesting to note that none of the bigger powers use their foreign missions for this purpose - England, Germany, Italy, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Holland, Belgium, all send technical delegations. It is sound policy and we, as a country, should certainly adopt it. Non-adoption of it is being penny wise and pound foolish. Some day, a blunder made in good faith and through no fault of his own by one of our ministers abroad acting as delegate to a conference where all the other delegates are experts, may cost the country incalculably more than it would save by not sending delegations of experts as do all the other countries who know their business and who are not debarred from doing so by their geographical situation.

So much on this subject from the point of view of the effect on the work of the delegations themselves of appointing ministers abroad to them. The effect of this policy on the work of the legations is even worse. For the last month, even though I did not attend the conference regularly, the amount of my time which it took up, both in and out of office hours, was enormous. I have been utterly unable to cope with my ordinary duties and have had files lying on my desk for weeks which demand attention and which have not received it. I will not refer to the interference with my house-hunting activities, because, though the results of this interference was very serious, the house hunting proposition is not a routine one. It is a special and passing activity. It is my ordinary work as Minister in Paris which has been paralysed. I have not made a quarter of my official calls yet, though I have been accredited over six weeks. I have not been able to get in touch with French people, or to get to know the press. I have not yet set foot in the Chamber of Deputies or in the Senate, or met the members of the Government. This is the real work of the minister, and it is a very full time job. When the legations were set up it was, I take it, the intention of the Government that this work should be done. Compelling the Minister to attend lengthy conferences prevents this work being done, and in the interests of a completely illusory economy, nullifies the declared policy of the Government in the matter of its foreign representation.

Another equally important point I wish to raise again, is that of staff. I am crippled for want of staff. I have written and protested and implored, but can achieve nothing. I wish you would call for the file on the subject and see my last letters. It gives, officially, my considered views which I hold very strongly and which, I am sure, in view of the information and argument contained in the letter in question, you will share with me. I want to run the legation as efficiently as possible and to make it a really useful and durable institution. But with my present staff it is quite impossible. I want more staff and different staff. Bailly2 is worth his weight in gold, but Mlle. Millard is useless for my purposes, and, even if she were good I would require a second shorthand typist capable of taking dictation in English or in French. As for Cawley, he is the dearest fellow imaginable, and very easy to get on with, but from the six weeks he has been with me I judge him to be a case of arrested development mentally. I candidly don't think he will ever be worth a button in the service - he hasn't the mentality for it. I don't think I ever met anybody quite so naïve. It is doubtless very refreshing and, spiritually, is a great asset, but in the work he has to do it's a catastrophe - and you'll never change him. He is constitutionally unfit for this branch of the service. I don't quite know what to do about it. If he weren't such a really dear fellow, from every point of view, I wouldn't hesitate. Don't think I don't know how difficult has been the task of finding people for these posts. I know it well, but the difficulty only proves that the civil service regulations on the matters are so rigid and are defeating their own object, which is, I take it, to assure efficiency in the service. Cawley may have all the legal qualifications necessary for the post - but he has not a single other qualification. He is a Peter Pan [two words indecipherable] and though kind hearts are undoubtedly more than coronets and simple faith undoubtedly more than Norman blood, neither kind heart nor simple faith entirely takes the place of commonsense and knowledge of the elementary phenomena of life.

You will probably see him when he is home on leave in a couple of weeks' time. As to what to do about him, I just don't know. He has not been very well since he came out here. Perhaps the home climate might suit him better. I wish you had him working with you for a week and then you would see the truth of my remarks.

I'm afraid you'll think me frightfully 'difficile' about staff. I'm not but I don't want duds. I promise you that when I get a good staff together I won't let them go. But in the interests of the service I cannot pretend that unsatisfactory staff is satisfactory, or that I can run the legation with insufficient and incapable assistance. We cannot afford a numerous staff and, for that reason, we cannot afford to keep any but first rates on the job. And they must exist somewhere. As regards the clerical staff, I'll guarantee, given a little time, to find suitable elements if I am given authority to do so. As for my civil service colleagues, that's not for me to decide. Cela c'est votre affaire, and I don't envy you.

I've mentioned conferences and I've mentioned staff. Now let me refer to my third worry, the ever present one - finance. As I have written officially on the subject a few days ago all I would like you to do is to call for the file. My worries on this score are very harrassing and seem to me to be largely unnecessary. Do please look into it. I find that the cost of living here is extraordinarily high. It's a luxury city and in many ways its dearer even than London. From what I can see so far, when we get settled down in a house, in spite of my allowances we'll be barely able to make ends meet. However I will revert to this later. I am appalled at the prices of things. Hotel life is ruinous, but at the moment I see no alternative to it. Fahy3 asked me some time ago to examine the possibility of taking a furnished flat by way of economy. I haven't had time to reply to him yet, but I fear there are many reasons against it. To begin with, decent furnished flats cost an enormous amount. Secondly you've got to take them on lease - for six months at least, which means that you can't cease paying rent just when you wish, as is the case with the hotel. Thirdly, if, as I hope to do, we get away on annual leave in January, we can give up the hotel quarters for the period, and so save a lot of rent - which we could not do had we a furnished flat.

Conferences, staff, finance - the only outstanding question I want to mention now is that of legation premises. I believe I'm on to something very good indeed at last, but as I've nothing definite to say I don't want to write officially about it yet. This is the position. An agent with whom I had been dealing rang me up a couple of days ago to tell me of a hotel particulier he knew of which would shortly be on the market and which would suit me admirably. When I asked him the price he said he could not say definitely, but had every reason to believe it was within my figure. He bases his belief on the following facts. Quite recently he had secured for a friend of his premises at between 130,000 and 140,000 francs a year. He met the friend last week and the latter told him that no 37 bis rue Villejust, belonging to an old lady of his acquaintance was going to be let - that he knew the house very well and that had he known it was available sooner he would have taken it himself, because 'c'était dans son prix'. I visited the house with the agent. It is situated at the corner of the rue Villejust and the rue Leonardo da Vinci - one block away from the avenue du Bois and quite near the Turkish embassy. The house is a little bigger than the rue Archimede premises, but infinitely more imposing. If the rent is what we believe it to be, we ought to jump at it. There is a separate entrance in the rue Leonardo da Vinci, leading into what would constitute first rate offices. There are on the ground floor - apart from the offices, four excellent reception rooms. On the first floor there are five bedrooms and on the second floor servants quarters etc. There is a porte cochère with a sauled4 courtyard. The whole appears to be in excellent repair and to require very little expenditure on decoration. The walls are panelled. The kitchens are first class and a new boiler was put in last year. The owner is to come up to town on the 16th. En attendant, on the agent's recommendation, in view of the difficulties I have experienced so far, and considering the extreme suitability of these premises, I thought it wise to risk a bribe to the concierge of 300 francs to turn away any possible enquirers until I have seen the patronne in 10 days time. Should we eventually take the house the agent will refund the money from his commission.

I can hardly believe the rent will be as indicated, but if it is, I shall immediately wire you for the Office of Works man and would urge the immediate signing of the lease subject to his favourable report. The house has not been advertised, but I understand it will be available by the end of January. I shall see the owner immediately on her return to Paris and will keep you in touch with developments.

This is a prodigious letter, but I've not written you for a long time and I wanted to let youknowthe situation here as accurately as possible. I'll write you again in a few days to tell you of my other activities, such as they have been.

How are you? And how are Seán Murphy and John Hearne? It would do me good to see you all again.

Yours ever,
Count G. O'Kelly de Gallagh

1 Not printed.

2 John (Jean) Bailly (1876-1935), Chief Clerk at the Irish Legation.

3 John Vincent Fahy, Department of External Affairs.

4 Possibly meaning 'Willowed'.

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