No. 62 NAI DFA Madrid Embassy 19/4

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

St Jean de Luz, 7 June 1937

Unofficial Visit from Spanish Government Official

Some little time ago I had a visit from Francisco de Arano, agent in Valencia for the Irish Iberian Trading Co., Ltd., Dublin. He had an aged mother and two elderly sisters in Franco's territory and appealed to me to try to get them out of Spain. I made enquiries and ascertained that there would be no objection to furnishing them with the necessary permits. Arano's mother and sisters were subsequently allowed to cross the French frontier. On 3rd June I received a visit from Francisco AYALA, who handed me a letter of introduction from Arano in which he was described as a high official of the Ministry for State. AYALA told me that his father (since dead) and 3 brothers (non-combatants) were prisoners in Burgos, where he had also 2 young brothers, 12 and 14 years of age; their mother was in Perpingnan. AYALA hoped that I might be able to secure permission for these 2 minors to leave Spain.

I pointed out to AYALA that all I could do would be to enquire whether a permit to cross the frontier would be granted, and, as his name was known to Franco's people (so he admitted), it seemed almost certain that no satisfactory reply would be obtainable, and my position was such that I could hardly insist or bring any pressure to bear; I advised him to make use of the good offices of the International Red Cross as in this way I thought he was more likely to meet with success. It is not desirable to court failure in a matter of this kind, nor is it prudent to prejudice my standing with Franco's people by taking too close an interest in families associated with the other side.

So far the visit was clearly of a personal nature and I informed AYALA that I did not propose to report his visit officially; he thought, however, that it might be as well to do so. I asked him why my few letters to Valencia had remained unanswered; he thought they might have gone astray in the post, but admitted that there was a certain feeling against the Diplomatic Corps non-resident in Spain. I told him that, from their point of view, it was scarcely to their advantage that, in reply to questions in the Dáil, it had to be stated that representations to Salamanca had received attention whereas communications to Valencia had met with no response. I reminded him that the Irish Government's attitude had been very correct throughout and that the Government had not yielded to the clamour for a breach of diplomatic relations with Spain, but that public opinion was somewhat inflamed, Ireland being a predominantly Catholic country, and prejudiced, even prior to the civil war, by the destruction of churches in Spain. AYALA's attitude was that the Catholic Church in Spain was identified with the enemies of the Republic, but that this was not so in the Basque country (Euzkadi) where there had been no excesses. As to the future of religion in Spain, he said that Valencia had given definite promises to the Basques that there would be full freedom for the practice of all religions but without any special privileges for the Catholic religion; he thought the restoration of freedom of religion, with the assistance of Basque priests, would precede the end of the war.

The next point I raised was the prevalence of disorder and anarchy as, if the choice were to be between disorder and order, there could be no doubt as to where the sympathies of the outside world would go. He said that a complete change had taken place and that order had been definitely established, that the upheaval caused by the war had made disorder inevitable, but that now they had a disciplined army and police and ordered conditions of life existed; he was very emphatic on this point and begged me to go to Valencia for a few days to judge for myself. He said that the recent troubles in Barcelona were deliberately provoked by the U.G.T. (socialist labour syndicate)1 for the purpose of putting an end to the State of anarchy for which the C.N.T. (anarchist labour syndicate)2 was responsible. He reminded me of the fact (which is quite true) that there had been a strange sympathy on this occasion in the nationalist press for the anarchists in Barcelona.

As to the military position, I expressed the opinion that, so long as the initiative of military operations was not in their hands, the belief was generally entertained that there was a definite superiority of their adversaries who alone had made any forward movements. He replied that the initiative was now passing into their hands, both on the Bilbao front and elsewhere, and that there would soon be a big improvement in this respect.

I concluded the conversation by regretting that I had not been notified of the change of Government in Valencia; AYALA thought the official advice might have been sent to Madrid. He promised to send me a copy of the Diplomatic list which I need.

[copy letter unsigned]
Aire Lán-Chómhachtach

1 Unión General del Trabajodores.

2 Confederación Nacional del Trabajo.

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