No. 355 NAI 2003/17/181

Letter from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 70) (Secret)

London, 27 August 1936

Mr. Malcolm MacDonald and I had lunch together on Tuesday, 25th August.1

I informed him that I had acquainted the President with Mr. MacDonald's suggestion that three or four senior Saorstát officials, acting in the closest possible touch with the Saorstát Government, should meet senior British officials who would similarly be in intimate touch with their Government, namely, Sir. N.F. Warren Fisher, head of the British Civil Service and Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Horace Wilson, head of the Prime Minister's Office, Sir Edward Harding, Permanent Under-Secretary to the Dominions Office, and Mr. Grattan Bushe, Legal Adviser to the Dominions Office. This form of procedure had been suggested by Mr. MacDonald in the hope that a frank discussion from which no question was to be excluded might yield a basis for negotiation later between the two countries, such basis being one which appeared to both Governments as likely to yield agreement. The British Government, as Mr. MacDonald had himself on two occasions at the Grosvenor Hotel, London, informed the President, had made a fairly full exploration of the questions outstanding between the two countries and had formulated certain proposals designed to provide a solution. His plan for a preliminary and wholly unfettered discussion between officials who were completely informed of their Government's positions on the questions to be discussed was designed to ensure in the first place complete secrecy, and in the second place was a plan which would enable him whilst the suggested discussions were proceeding to say that no negotiations were on foot between the Governments. If the results of these discussions should, as he hoped would not be the case, prove abortive, then no harm would ensue to either the British or the Irish Government.

I explained to Mr. MacDonald that Mr. de Valera had carefully considered the foreign suggestion and was quite certain that the plan was not feasible from the Irish side. The secrecy which Mr. MacDonald had as his first objective would not be secured if certain senior officials left Dublin for London. It would be impossible to prevent newspaper publicity of any such visit. The President was of opinion that if the British Government had proposals to make they could inform the representatives of the Irish Government in London either through one of their Ministers or one of their officials. The High Commissioner would then inform his Government who would give the proposals careful consideration.

Mr. MacDonald accepted the President's view saying that he had not appreciated that a visit to London of senior officials from Dublin would have the publicity result indicated. He still thought that he had better keep his team of four officials and they had better talk to me at as early a date as could be arranged.

Turning to the question of the proposed reform of the League of Nations, Mr. MacDonald said that the British Foreign Secretary had that day received Cabinet authority to make a statement on behalf of the British Government at the meeting of the League Assembly in September next. The British hope was that the German Government could be induced to return to the League in the near future. For that reason his statement, whilst giving certain constructive hints, would contain no definite proposals because he did not wish to find himself in a position where Herr Hitler might say to him that but for the British having said or done certain things he would have been able to arrange for Germany's return to the League. They were not sure but they thought that this view would commend itself to the French Government.

Later in the day I met Mr. Eden. He volunteered a statement which was almost entirely word for word that of Mr. MacDonald's reported in the preceding paragraph.

The British Foreign Office say that the information which reaches them about Spain is that the two contending forces have reached complete deadlock. It is quite impossible at the present moment, they say, to foretell which of the two parties may gain the upper hand.

[signed] J.W. Dulanty
High Commissioner

1 Marginal note by Seán Murphy: 'Seen by P. SM 31/8/36'.

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