No. 74 NAI DT S8535

Letter from James McNeill to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

Dublin, 7 July 1932

Dear Mr. President,

Immediately before and also during the Eucharistic Congress I thought it undesirable to make any further protest regarding the discourtesy with which you and your Ministers have treated me.

On the 26th April1 I wrote a letter asking for an apology for the French Legation incident. On the 30th April2 you wrote me a lengthy reply in which you refused my request for an apology. For some reason you marked the letter ?personal'. I replied on the 2nd May3 and dealt with no part of your letter except the refusal. I merely repeated my request. But I shall be grateful if you can see your way to publishing the ?personal' letter for general information. Your newspaper gloried in the insult but made, I think, no statement about the apology to the French Minister. You replied to my letter of 2nd May on the 7th May.4

In the time of Mr. Cosgrave's Government I had asked for and received official help in inviting distinguished foreigners to public functions. Early in this year I was helped by the Department of External Affairs to get addresses of distinguished Catholics and other useful particulars about them. Soon after you became Minister for External Affairs I enquired if further help could be given. Mr. Walshe, the Secretary to the Department, called and told me personally that you wished me to wait a short time. Though, if invitations were to be sent further delay was at the time undesirable, I waited some weeks. Further enquiry by me resulted in another visit in which Mr. Walshe informed me from you that the invitation of guests to the Vice Regal Lodge in Congress Week would embarrass your Government. I replied in writing to that message5 and informed you that I had, even after the unnecessary delay, decided to issue invitations. I think your message conveyed verbally by a Civil Servant was more than discourteous. It suggested a profound ignorance of the duty you owed to the people in connection with the Congress. You had no right whatsoever to send such a message, even if you carefully refrained from putting it in writing.

Before the Cardinal Legate's6 arrival the Lord Mayor7 applied to the Ministry of Defence for help in making the Civic Reception worthy of the great occasion. In connection with this the Lord Mayor had a personal interview with Mr. Aiken, the Minister for Defence.

Mr. Aiken sought to impose conditions as regards the presence of the Army Band at the City's reception on Monday, 27th June, of the Cardinal Legate, Cardinals and others including the Governor General. He wished to know if the Governor General was to be present before the Army Band, consisting of members of the State's Army, could be permitted to be present and trumpeters provided to play a fanfare in honour of the Cardinal Legate. The Band is not the property of you or Mr. Aiken or of any political party. The Army Band which was asked for by the Lord Mayor on behalf of the citizens was not present. It was absent because the Lord Mayor could not agree to the Governor General's exclusion from a civic reception of a non-party character.

There have been other things. I know that the Ministry's attitude affects my relations with the diplomatic corps, sometimes unexpectedly. I do not question your legal right to omit to ask me to the State reception to the Cardinal Legate, and naturally I did not ask for the admission of my stranger guests.

I never sought any public office. I am willing to return to private life when my acceptance of public duty is displeasing to a majority either of the Dáil or of the people. But I do not think I should resign any office because other office-holders think I am a suitable target for ill-conditioned bad manners. I know that you have a majority in the Dáil. I know that you can have me removed.

I have arranged that this letter and all the correspondence, except your letter marked 'personal' shall be published within three days unless I receive apologies here from you and other Ministers who have sometimes openly and sometimes otherwise sought to behave with calculated discourtesy to the Governor General from whom you accepted confirmation of your appointments.

When your Government came into office I had no intention of doing anything but discharging my duty in exactly the same way as I had hitherto done. You have made it necessary for me to explain to my countrymen that, without any change of principle, I have not suddenly become a coward on account of the attractions of an honourable office. You will, I am sure, have no difficulty in finding a Governor General who will accept the post on the conditions which you regard as honourable.

I am sorry that you have chosen for the occasion of your political demonstration a supreme act of religious worship in which the Irish nation was united with the whole Catholic world.

Your obedient servant,
[signed] James McNeill

1 See above No. 41.

2 See above No. 44.

3 See above No. 45.

4 See above No. 47.

5 See above No. 55.

6 Cardinal Lorenzo Lauri (1864-1941), Apostolic Internuncio to Peru (1917), Apostolic Internuncio to Poland (1921), created Cardinal (1926), Papal Legate to Eucharistic Congress, Dublin (1932).

7 Alfred Byrne (1882-1956), ten times Lord Mayor of Dublin.

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