No. 404 NAI 2003/17/181

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe on a telephone conversation with
Sir Harry Batterbee (London)

Dublin, 11 December 1936

Sir Harry Batterbee phoned to me this morning about 9.40 and asked me whether I had any information to give him about our legislation. He was asking, he said, for his personal information. I told him that all I had before me at the moment was the titles of two Bills which we were introducing this afternoon, and I read them to him. He then went on to ask whether I could not tell him, in a personal way also, the terms of the Bills later on in the course of the morning. I said that that was a question requiring consideration.

At 11.55 Mr. Dixon, one of the Assistant Secretaries in the Dominions Office, phoned and told me that Sir Harry Batterbee was in the House of Commons, but that he (Dixon) had been asked by Batterbee to ring me up and ask me whether I could give him further information. I told Dixon that my conversation with Batterbee was on a purely personal basis, and what I was going to say to him now must be taken as said in the same conditions, and that I was not in any sense whatsoever making an official communication. I then said that it would create difficulties for them and for us if I communicated the terms of the Bills even in this purely private and personal fashion. If I did indicate the terms of the Bills and if the President were asked in the Dáil whether he had communicated them to the British, he could not say that he had not communicated them, nor could he say in fairness to the British that he had communicated them, since both the British and ourselves regarded documents or their contents as communicated only when sufficient time was given for an examination of them. But I knew from Batterbee that his anxiety was to find out whether in effect we were making provision for the Succession, and he could tell Batterbee in the conditions already stated that we were in fact making provision for the Succession.

I wanted to emphasise to Dixon still further that this conversation was not in any way an official communication, and I felt bound to say to him at the end that from the experience which we had with Mr. Thomas we found it essential to leave absolutely no room for doubt as to the nature of any conversation regarding official matters. I knew that Batterbee would appreciate exactly what the position was and the difficulties which had arisen in Mr. Thomas's time from using purely private communications as if they had been officially made. I told Dixon that I had no intention whatsoever of casting any aspersion on anybody, but that it was essential for me to go to the furthest limit in order to emphasise the character of this conversation. Mr. Dixon said he quite understood the position and would inform Sir Harry Batterbee accordingly.

I felt quite sure from my conversation with Batterbee that he would try by some plausible means to convert our private and personal conversation (as he continually repeated) into an official communication if the terms of the Bills were given to him and he thought the matter sufficiently serious to warrant the initiation of propaganda against us through a statement for that purpose made in the course of the debate in the House of Commons today.

[signed] (Sgd) J.P. Walshe

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