No. 169 NAI DFA 5/88

Extract from a letter from Frederick H. Boland (for Count O'Kelly de Gallagh)
to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(P. 16.15)

Paris, 1 February 1933

[matter omitted]

The President's visits to Geneva, and his short contacts with the continental press, are no doubt principally responsible for the rather marked change in the attitude of the French press to him personally.1 There is, of course, still a lot of disagreement with, and doubts as to the wisdom of, the Fianna Fáil policy, but there is (what there certainly was not this time last year) a constant and general tendency among the commentators to pay tribute to the President's honesty, his sincerity, his qualities of leadership and his sense of realities. One commentator concludes his article thus:- ?Se livrer á des pronostics serait à cette heure bien téméraire ... Ce que l'on peu prédire sans crainte de démenti, c'est que M. de Valera ne s'y révélara ni au-dessous des événements, ni au-dessous de lui-même'.

All the commentators were not as prudent as the one I have just quoted, and forecasts were made on every side. The majority anticipated a virtual stalemate: a few thought that Fianna Fáil and Labour would together have a working majority, and fewer still, that the 'Cosgrave-McDermott coalition'2 would form the new government. One commentator alone ('Paul Bartel' in the 'Figaro') thought that Fianna Fáil would have an absolute majority; he wrote 'M. de Valera reviendra donc au pouvoir, avec une majorité d'une dizaine de voix sur la Coalition Cosgrave-McDermott'. M. Bartel was the only commentator who came to the Legation beforehand for information upon which to base his forecast.

The result of the election, therefore, occasioned a good deal of surprise here. What I might call the 'official' reaction to it was expressed in the leader of the 'Temps' of the 28th January, the relevant passages of which I sent you in my report of the 28th January.3 I cannot emphasise too strongly the fact that the French attitude towards Ireland is, and will always be, conditioned by the state of Anglo-French relations, and that, as long as Franco-German relations remain as they now are, rendering Britain's friendship vital to France, the French official attitude in any dispute between Ireland and Britain will be at the most one of cold disapproval of the policies of the former.

Most of the comments on the results of the election which I have so far seen are obviously inspired by the preoccupations to which I have just referred. Apart from a mild scepticism as to the practicability of the Fianna Fáil economic programme, the only thing the French press have to say against the Government's success in the election is that 'il menace l'unité et la puissance de l'Empire britanique' - France's best friend and most powerful potential ally. This attitude is, of course, particularly marked in the case of the Press of the extreme Right, as e.g. Marcel Boulanger in the 'Figaro' and J. Delebecque in 'l'Action Française'. But it runs through the entire French press, getting gradually less and less emphatic as it comes to the papers of the Left, among which the ?Ere Nouvelle' (the Government organ) expresses itself in an editorial on the separation of the I.F.S. from the Commonwealth, in the following, almost wistful, manner:

'Certes, Valera, homme d'État, ne pratiquera pas les méthodes de l'ancien révoluntionnaire et du chef des partisans. Il temporisera peut-être encore quelque temps, et rendra ainsi service à ceux qui, malgré tout, n'ont pas abandonné le désir d'une entente sincère entre les deux peuples désunis de l'Angleterre et de l'Irlande'.

There are two things I should like to point out in conclusion. In the first place, it would be a mistake to conclude that what I have referred to as the 'official' reaction, as voiced in the Press, necessarily represents French public opinion generally. One meets with a very great deal of sympathy and pro-Irish sentiment among private individuals in France, even in official and diplomatic circles, and this is, of course, only natural in a country in which the majority of the population is still actively militating in favour of the republican form of government, and the republican order of ideas. Secondly, while the French press commentaries on the results of the election fall very short of what one would wish them to be, their general tone is immeasurably better and more sympathetic than the commentaries of the same papers on the results of the election last year.

A final word. It is most desirable, from the point of view of public opinion here, that the Government should utilise whatever opportunities may offer themselves, in the course of their public utterances, to contradict the statement made in a considerable number of London messages to the Paris press, to the effect that it was the intense and deep-rooted hatred of the Irish people for Britain which carried the day for Fianna Fáil.

[signed] F. H. Boland
for Minister Plenipotentiary

1 Marginal note: 'Returned to A/Secy by Miss O'Connell 25/4/33. P.A. 26/4. S.G.M.'. Kathleen O'Connell (1888-1956) was private secretary to Eamon de Valera (1919-54).

2 William T. Cosgrave (Cumann na nGaedheal), Frank McDermott (National Centre Party).

3 See above No. 168.

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