No. 205 UCDA P150/2183

Handwritten letter from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

St Elizabeth Krankenhaus, Köln, 28 July 1933

My dear President,

I was very glad indeed to get your letter of the 24th.1 I should have replied at once were it not for the prostrating heat which we have here for the last week.

I am especially grateful for the general implications both of your letter and of your conversation with John Hearne. Isolation and serious heart trouble had combined to bring about a state of depression which was a definite hindrance to my cure.

I want to acknowledge wholeheartedly that your message conveyed through John H. was a source of the greatest encouragement to me and it has greatly helped towards the rapid progress which I have been making for the last two weeks.

Your conclusion about the line of action which I ought to have taken is probably quite correct, but think of the mass of contradictory motives with which I was faced. I wanted to try and get fundamentally cured in the only country where they appear to take risks with the heart for that end. I wanted to stay at home and to keep in close touch even when I could not do actual work in the office. But the only treatment I could get from the doctors in Dublin was amiable talk, and most unsatisfactory advice; and they charge us considerably more than the very best specialists here - who incidentally slave for their patients from early morning till late at night. Again, I had an opportunity of becoming familiar with the German language, and with what is probably the most interesting political situation which has arisen in any country under modern conditions.

I admit that, in actual fact, these secondary objects became completely submerged owing to the severe and exhausting nature of my illness, and the relapse after over six weeks special treatment had the effect of turning my interests very sharply in another direction. However, T.G. that is gone. The danger of any further relapse has disappeared and I am making daily very definite progress.

On the other hand, to be absolutely frank with you, as is my duty, I could not make any attempt to travel back to Ireland, without serious risk, until the early days of September. I asked the Dr once more specifically on receipt of your letter, and he remains absolutely unshaken on the point. Since my relapse the treatment has been completely changed and I have no doubt whatever about the reality of the benefit I am deriving from it. I am lengthening my 'walks' everyday and feeling the fatigue less and less. But I have to become accustomed to much more exercise before I can attempt even a short train journey in this country. I intend to try myself out in the journey to Bad Manheim before going home. There is one particular specialist there whose opinion I ought to have. It costs very little and it would be foolish not to take every possible precaution against any return of this trouble so that I can forget about it finally the moment I get back to work. Work is the only thing that makes life worth living, and you never feel that so much as when you are reduced to almost absolute passivity over a long period. I only wish I could go back now. However, I do believe that these months will not have been entirely lost. I have added to my small store of German - nothing very substantial, indeed, but still something. I have also got the general atmosphere of the great experiments which are being carried out here and the essentials of which we may well have to imitate in Ireland.

I don't know on what lines you have been thinking recently; but it seems to me inevitable that if you are to get leisure to think for yourself and your ministers, as well as time to work you will have to give Parlt. a holiday for an indefinite period. It is also exceedingly likely that you will have to carry through a policy of political unification. I know how abhorrent anything in the nature of force is to you, but there is no reason why you should not succeed by other such better methods than those employed elsewhere. The position of our State is at least as parlous as that of other States in which the ordinary constitutional forms have been set aside for a time by the majority - as is absolutely within their right. What a very great pity it is that our educational system has been so deplorable, and that you have, consequently, so very few really efficient instruments to work with throughout the country. How different it is here, where there is at least one intelligent, well educated, and cultured person in the smallest community ready to form a link in a great national movement. I wonder how many even of the school masters in Ireland are ready to devote their spare time to the general interest. One might ask the question whether it would not be better to make them real state servants so that their minds might more naturally turn towards work in the interests of the people as a whole.

And in this connection I presume you have read the Concordat published a week ago.2 T.G. we have no Concordat and, I hope, never shall, but there are quite a lot of things in the German Concordat which we could secure by a little pressure. For instance it is time that we should be asked our opinion about appointments to Bishoprics in general, and we should be given a chance of objecting to each individual appointment. (Whatever Paschal3 may say to the contrary I feel absolutely certain that the British are informed beforehand of all Irish Episl. appointments.) In the protocol to the Concordat this latter privilege is declared not to be a right of Veto, and, as the only remaining objection of the Holy See now appears to be the formal granting of that right, I don't see why we should not imitate the Germans and make the H.[oly] F.[ather] a present of the difference. No matter what system of education we may set up, we can never have an educated and cultured people, never build up an Irish civilisation unless we have distinguished and saintly men as Bishops, and, through them, a cultural and devoted priesthood who will be ready to give every moment outside the direct functions of their Ministry to the social and educational service of the people. The present position of inertia and indifference is deplorable, and I know it must be giving you a great deal of worry.

The only Irish paper which I have read since I left Ireland (if I can except some cuttings read from the Dept. on your Roman visit) was the Irish Press containing the report of the Debate on our Estimates.

I was pained and disgusted at the speech made by a certain opposition deputy, and I wished I could have been a T.D. for a day in order to answer it. And my answer would have been fundamental and annihilating, because I know, only too well, to what petty whims and personal motives the major interests of the people have been so frequently subordinated by that particular deputy. It is just as well I decided to rely on being kept informed by the Dept. of things that are of real interest, if the daily papers have had to publish much of such material. But having read that speech I am still more convinced that Parlt. must remain a useless institution so long as it is used by the opposition solely as an instrument for getting back to power.

You have a tremendous task before you, and, I must earnestly hope that you will be able to take at least a few weeks holiday before you get down to work in the Autumn. If you have any hesitation about taking a holiday you must remember that the most fruitful ideas often come to one away from one's work, and ordinary preoccupations.

I am sure you will feel that I am running away with your time, but I know you will not mind my treating this letter as a sort of informal chat. Thanks very much for having suggested sending Belton4 to accompany me on the journey home. P.G. I shan't need anyone, but my sister-in-law is coming out in any case, so I shall be quite safe if anything does happen.

With kind regards to Mrs. de Valera I remain my dear President, with great respect and esteem, yours very sincerely,

J.P. Walshe

1 See above No. 203.

2 German Concordat with the Vatican.

3 Paschal Robinson, the Papal Nuncio to the Irish Free State.

4 John A. Belton, Department of External Affairs.

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