No. 392 NAI DFA EA 231/5

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

Paris, 21 July 1930

I have the honour to report to you concerning the general position in relation to Ireland as I have found it here since my appointment last autumn.

I must preface my remarks by the statement that in the matter of forming connections and getting to know people I have been immensely handicapped by the want of proper legation premises. To begin with an immense proportion of my time was taken up exclusively with searching for accommodation and secondly I have been quite unable to receive people informally at home which is the best, if not the only, method of penetrating beneath the crust.

During the past six weeks, since moving to Vaucresson, I have given a series of lunches, on which I will report in a separate minute dealing with extra routine activities.1 I would have given you such reports sooner were I not also very much handicapped in the matter of staff.

I have found a great deal of goodwill towards Ireland in all grades of society. This goodwill is largely sentimental and traditional. At the same time I have noticed a tendency in a few cases to patronise. It will take time to destroy completely the effect of secular British propaganda. In some military quarters I sense a latent hostility, at the roots of which I believe to be:

(a) the Easter rebellion, which was, of course, exploited to the full by the British at the time.
(b) the assassination of Field Marshall Wilson2 who was very intimate with Foch and his entourage.
(c) the influence of the British Military on the French Senior Officers, who, though sometimes actually disliking a given British officer, have none the less what I would almost describe as a social inferiority complex towards British officers as a whole.

The social influence of the British Embassy is very great. Though I have heard confidential expressions of opinion comparing the present ambassador with his predecessor in a manner distinctly to the advantage of the latter, still Lord Tyrrell has been entertaining a great deal this year, his entertainments ranging up to two or even three thousand people at a time. The prestige of the Embassy, quite apart from the personality of the Ambassador, is immense, and invitations to British Embassy functions are eagerly sought. My own personal relations with the Embassy are what might have been expected. I am on quite good terms with the Ambassador himself, whom I knew before, though we are not on intimate terms. I am also on excellent terms with Mr Cahill, the Commercial Counsellor, who, as you know, is a Clongownian. As for the other members of the Embassy, our relations with them are civil, but there is absolutely no cordiality. We have of course exchanged cards, but with the exception of Colonel Needham, the Military Attaché, who is also Irish and whom I knew already in Brussels, there has been no exchange of entertainment. Of course, in this connection it should be added that it would have been up to me to make the first steps in the way of entertainment and this I could not do while living at the hotel.

In social circles we have certain ready made sympathies, which, however, as I said before, are sentimental and traditional. I do not think they are sufficiently solid to count upon in any conflict, say with Britain. In such a case we might preserve the sympathy but it would be underground sympathy and the dispensers thereof would be distinguished by their discretion and would certainly not utter a word which would get them in wrong with the British Embassy.

As you know there is a considerable element of Wild Geese blood among what is known as 'society'. I found the greatest possible hopes on their effective organisation and co-operation in years to come, when the Irish Legation will have established a prestige of its own, but at the moment the remarks I have made applying to social circles in general apply to them with almost equal force. Social snobbery is an enormous force in Paris as elsewhere, and I have no shadow of doubt but that if we can receive these people in a decent legation and organise them as Authentic Wild Geese - thus proclaiming to the world their ancient lineage - we will be in a position to fashion to our use a very potent instrument for the dissemination of Irish ideas and for the prestige of the Country.

In political circles we enjoy, so far as I have been able to judge, general good will. The reception given recently in the Senate to the law creating the French Legation in Dublin, is, I think, quite indicative of this sentiment.

The press is, a priori, inclined to befriend us. Properly handled I believe we could count on a great deal of press help. But the handling of the press, like the handling of the politicians, of diplomatic colleagues or of social lights is entirely dependent on the existence of suitable legation premises with facilities for entertainment.

My relations with the Quai d'Orsay are excellent. M. Briand and M. Berthelot both seem excellently disposed towards us, and I am on terms of personal friendship with different officers both in the Protocol and in the Press sections.

As for the other Legations, I have met nothing but courtesy from all of them and cordiality from the great majority. I have, as you know, been cultivating them as best I could with a view to Geneva, and I am quite satisfied with the results so far. Whenever I meet my colleagues in a function of any sort, 90% of them are more than cordial, and all are very courteous.

The dark spot at the moment in Paris is the Irish Colony. The position of the Irish Colony has been thoroughly unhealthy owing to the partly interested activities of elements, some of which are more American than Irish. There are, however, signs of a change. As I have already informed you, the so called Irish Club has practically gone out of business since the last St Patrick's Day banquet as a result of their attitude to the Legation. Since then I have had the visit of two Irishmen of an excellent type who have offered to help me in every way. I also had Father MacDerby, whom you know, out to lunch, and he will likewise assist me. One has to go slow at first, but I hope to have made sufficient progress with the Wild Geese, the Irish Colony and personal sympathies to organise a suitable St Patrick's Day celebration next year. If I can achieve my purpose, as I believe in time it can be achieved, Paris should become the European Centre of an Irish organisation spreading from 'Dunkirk to Belgrade' ready to spread Irish ideas in times of peace and to rally round the Mother Country in times of stress.

[signed] Count G. O'Kelly de Gallagh

1 Not printed.

2 Field Marshall Sir Henry Wilson (1864-1922), assassinated on 22 June 1922 on the steps of 36 Eaton Place, London, by the Irish Republican Army.

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