No. 21 NAI DFA 227/87

Memorandum by the Department of External Affairs on the Spanish Civil War
(Non-Intervention) Bill (Dublin)

Dublin, 18 February 1937


The object of this Bill is to give effect to the Agreement reached at the International Non-Intervention Committee on the 17th February, that the Governments who are parties to the non-intervention policy should, as from midnight on February 20th/21st, 'extend the Non-Intervention Agreement to cover the recruitment in, the transit through or departure from, their respective countries of persons of non-Spanish Nationality proposing to proceed to Spain or the Spanish dependencies for the purpose of taking service in the present Civil War.'

It will be remembered that in August of last year on the initiative of the French Government the International Non-Intervention Committee was established. The Government of Saorstát Éireann became a member of that Committee in the belief that the policy of the Non-Intervention Committee2 was best in the interests of Spain itself as well as in the interests of European peace. The Governments represented on the Non-Intervention Committee decided, towards the end of September, to prohibit the exports of arms and ammunition to Spain from their respective countries. It is common knowledge that the prohibition of export has not been strictly adhered to. It is also well-known that during the last 3 or 4 months considerable numbers of volunteers from various countries have joined the armies of the two parties in Spain. No matter what side in the present conflict one's sympathies may lie, and there can be no little doubt on which side is the sympathy of the vast majority of the people of this country, there must be a general desire to see the present conflict in Spain brought to a speedy conclusion. The Governments represented on the Non-Intervention Committee realising that so long as arms and ammunition were imported into Spain, and that volunteers from various countries could join the ranks of either party, the present war in Spain was likely to continue almost indefinitely. Apart from the fact that the continuance of the war would entail increasing loss of life and property, the presence of foreign volunteers in Spain greatly increases the danger of an international incident which might seriously affect the peace of Europe.

The Governments represented on the Non-Intervention Committee accordingly agreed that they would prohibit their nationals from taking part in the Civil War on either side. They also agreed to a system of supervision of the land and sea frontiers of Spain in order to prevent the exportation of arms and ammunition to that country.

The Government of Saorstát Éireann have agreed to the proposals of the Non-Intervention Committee because they believe it is the only contribution the Saorstát can make towards bringing the present conflict in Spain to an end, and preventing that conflict from spreading beyond Spain, and thus endangering the peace of Europe. The Government of Saorstát Éireann also believe that the Spaniards should be left to settle their own internal differences, and to work out for themselves what particular the form of government is most suited to their national needs.

It is for these reasons that the Dáil is being asked to pass the present Bill. It is quite clear from the text of the Bill itself what steps it is proposed to take and I do not feel that any explanation of the various sections is called for. There is one section, however, to which I should like to draw particular attention; I refer to section 10 which gives power to the Executive Council to prevent the export from Saorstát Éireann of articles which, in its opinion, are implements of war, or war material. Deputies will be aware that by section 17 of the Fire Arms Act, 1925 the export of arms and munitions from Saorstát Éireann is prohibited unless licensed by the Minister for Justice. The Fire Arms Act, however, does not cover all implements and material of war. The International Non-Intervention Committee are anxious that the prohibition regarding the export of arms and war material should cover all classes of arms and war material. They have, accordingly, requested all Governments represented on the Committee to take steps to prohibit the export of all types of war material. As Saorstát Éireann does not manufacture arms or war material it is unlikely that this section will have to be used, but the power to prohibit the export of such material is taken in order to carry out the request of the Non-Intervention Committee for uniformity regarding the classes of material prohibited in the various countries.

1 This memorandum formed the basis of a speech by de Valera in Dáil Éireann during the second stage of the debate on the Spanish Civil War (Non-Intervention) Bill, 1937 (See Dáil Éireann, Parliamentary Debates, vol. 65, cols 598-601, 18 Feb. 1938).

2 The words crossed out in this document have been crossed out in the original.

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO