No. 518 NAI DFA EA 231/4/1931

Confidential Report from Count Gerald O'Kelly de Gallagh to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)1

Paris, 10 February 1931

One of the questions which I was most anxious to discuss with the Minister and with yourself on the occasion of your return from Geneva was that of the general activities of the Legation. In this connexion I would refer to the second paragraph of your minute of the 30th December (A.40a/473)2 and would submit the following observations:-

I) I thoroughly agree that the chief work of the Representative must consist of a constant effort to 'increase our prestige as a distinctive national entity: to emphasise our separate language, our Catholic religion, Catholic history, everything, in fact, that makes us different from England; also our co-equality with the other nations of the Commonwealth'. As regards the last item, I would even go further and say that we must emphasise not only our co-equality, but, if it be not a contradiction in terms, our potential preponderance in Commonwealth councils as a mother country and as the natural leader of the Dominions in matters of European policy. I believe that, for as long a time as we can usefully consider, the function of the Paris Legation will be primarily propagandist, on the lines of the foregoing paragraph, rather than strictly diplomatic in the narrow sense.

II) If I am in complete agreement with you on the end to be attained, I am afraid that I must disagree with some of the means suggested.

In Paris, and, I think, in any predominantly Latin capital, it would be quite out of the question for a minister of a foreign country to give lectures concerning his own country. His business is to inspire and organise such lectures, newspaper articles, etc., but were he to speak himself he would be immediately totally 'déconsidéré'; his lecture would be put down as propaganda, and he would be laughed out of court. I have yet to learn of a single case of any minister accredited to Paris delivering a public lecture on his own country. It not infrequently happens that Ministers give lectures on various intellectual or social topics not connected with their own country, and by that means obtain a certain amount of kudos for their country, but it would be considered very bad form for a Minister to deliver a propaganda lecture.

III) I also must beg to disagree completely with the suggestion that great social activity is sheer waste of time.

Such an activity could be sheer waste of time if pursued without the constant preoccupation of furthering the country's interests. But if it is pursued with that one preoccupation - and can you doubt it in my case? - then it is not only 'one of the means of achieving the end' we have in view, but it is almost the only means to make a start with, and is far and away the most effective means. This is true of all Legations, but it is ten times more true of a Legation which, like ours, has just been created and represents a country whose status is subject to such endless confusion of thought and is so little understood as is ours. My own experience on this point, coinciding with that of my colleagues, has been quite conclusive. In Brussels 90% of what success was achieved was due directly to what I would term more or less intense social activity. Since coming to Paris, though labouring under considerable difficulties through not having an established Legation, my experience has been the same. I have already got, upon a card index on my desk, over five hundred names of persons with whom I have been in contact. In many cases the contacts have been very slight. In most cases they will require following up. I should say that probably a minimum of two hundred are susceptible of becoming permanent 'relations' who would eventually become enrolled in any Franco-Irish organisation that may be founded. It is, indeed, only by maintaining such contacts assiduously that an organisation of that type can be usefully founded and developed. Given time, I hope to enrol an increasing number of friends of Ireland from all categories of society that can be of any use in furthering the national cause and in enhancing the national prestige. As I have often stated before, it is from friends of this sort in politics, finance, the press and various intellectual circles that we have most to hope.

All this means a great deal of work for the Minister - very trying and often very uphill work, but work the interest of which is in direct proportion to the greatness of the end to be attained. People as a whole are inclined, a priori, to be interested in Ireland. As a whole also, they are abysmally ignorant of things Irish. Neither my wife nor myself ever attends a function of any kind without being bombarded by questions concerning everything from our constitutional relations with Britain to the state of the roads for motoring purposes.

It is, of course, known that we are a strongly Catholic country, and I lose no chance of stressing the fact. I attend all functions at the Nunciature or at Notre Dame, wherever possible. There exists in Paris a 'Union des Étrangers Catholiques' under the presidency of Mgr. Chaptal. They organise lectures by prominent Catholics and I make a point of attending officially. Yesterday I attended one of their lectures at the house of the Duc de Broglie. The subject was 'Au soir de Port Royal', being a study of the decline of Jansenism in France. The lecturer was Monsieur Louis Arthus, one of the best known Catholic authors of the day. His wife is of Irish descent and is even related to me through the French branch of my family.

I think that we will find strong support among the French Catholic milieu provided we can avoid any apparent friction with Britain. In the event of public friction with Britain I have no illusions at all as to what would happen. We would receive numberless discreet expressions of sympathy, but no public support whatever.

[signed] Count G. O'Kelly de Gallagh

1 Handwritten marginal note: 'Hold for Secretary's return, SM'.

2 Not printed.

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