No. 31 NAI DFA Madrid Embassy 19/4

Extracts from a confidential report from Leopold H. Kerney to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(S.J.19/1) (Confidential) (Copy)

St Jean De Luz, 6 March 1937

[matter omitted]
Ireland and Spain.
De Mamblas asked me to enlighten him as to the true position in Ireland, and I understood clearly that my remarks would be the basis of some report by him. He mentioned the names of O'Duffy, Belton1 (he made a note of this name, which was not familiar to him) and McCullagh2; he had seen in a hotel in Salamanca an open letter to President de Valera published in pamphlet form. I explained, confidentially of course, the position as regards each of the three; I sketched the history of the first two, their position in Irish public life, I explained their attitude and their policy. I informed him of the rather violent attack on the President by O'Duffy in an opposition newspaper in connection with the legislation following the decisions of the non-intervention committee. De Mamblas expressed the fear that O'Duffy's attitude might have an adverse effect on the decisions of the Irish Government. I assured him that there need not be the slightest apprehension on this point and that the Government's attitude would not be influenced one way or the other by anything O'Duffy might say or do. I told him that the Government's first duty was of course to safeguard Irish interests; that they did not feel that they could just at this stage set a headline by giving to the Franco régime an official recognition, which would in any case be of no material and of but slight moral advantage to Spain; that our attitude was uninfluenced by and independent of that of England; that the President himself had stated that there was no doubt as to the direction of the sympathies of the majority of the Irish people; that I had no doubt myself as to where the sympathies of my Government were, although I had not discussed this question officially at home; that recognition by the Vatican would be a very desirable preliminary step; that my personal opinion was that recognition by some important Catholic country such as the Argentine or Brazil might have a repercussion in Ireland.
[matter omitted]

I reminded de Mamblas that, notwithstanding the links of history and religion that existed between the two countries, there was a very strong democratic spirit in Ireland, and therefore there would be a disposition amongst the Irish people generally to look askance at any regime in Spain which might appear to be imposed on the people following on what might by some be believed to be a purely military revolt. I believed, therefore, that it was of the utmost importance that it should be made clear that there was democratic approval for the re-introduction of the monarchy. He said that the reaction against the excesses committed under the Republic was so great that there had been a tremendous swing over of opinion in favour of the monarchy.

Semi-official Representative of Franco in Ireland.
De Mamblas asked me about the Spanish Legation in Dublin, and told me incidentally that Aguilar3 was not in high favour because his resignation had been too long delayed. He asked me how we would view the presence in Dublin of an unofficial or semi-official representative of Franco; he asked me to ascertain your views in the matter. I told him that, if there were to be such a representative, his position would be a delicate one and the greatest tact, caution and care would be necessary because there was no doubt but that the opposition would make every effort to utilise this gentleman's presence for their own advantage, thereby creating difficulties for the Government. Would you please advise me as soon as may be as to your attitude in this matter, as I expect de Mamblas to raise this question again at some early future date.

In conclusion, I would call your attention to the fact that, though the Church in Spain came out definitely on one side in the civil war, the Vatican has endeavoured to remain outside and above the contending parties; compare this with Franco's desire to keep Don Juan from appearing to take sides. And I also express the fear that the 'cleaning up' operations during the Regency will involve much bloodshed, and possibly many acts of personal vengence which the new régime may not be able to (I hesitate to say willing) to prevent.

[copy letter unsigned]
Aire Lán-Chómhachtach

1 Patrick Belton (1884-1945), Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TD for various constituencies, including Dublin County (Fianna Fáil) (June to September 1927), Dublin North (Fine Gael) (1933-7). Left Fine Gael about 1935 to form and then lead the Irish Christian Front, which supported General Franco. Rejoined Fine Gael and was elected for Dublin County in 1938. Belton continued to hold strong pro-Fascist views and was expelled from Fine Gael in 1940.

2 Francis McCullagh (1874-1956), Irish-born retired British army officer, the author of many books including accounts of the revolutions in Russia and Mexico. He was in Spain as war correspondent of the London Daily Mail. His In Franco's Spain, being the experiences of an Irish war-correspondent during the great civil war which began in 1936 was published in London in 1937.

3 Alvano de Aguilar Gomez Acebo, Spanish Minister in Dublin (Dec. 1935-Sept. 1936).

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