No. 40 NAI DFA 119/33

Extracts from a report on the work of the High Commissioner's office from March 1936 to March 1937 by Colman O'Donovan to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

London, 31 March 1937

[matter omitted]


2. In the sphere of international politics the year under review was no less notable than its predecessor, the outstanding event being the Civil War in Spain, and the setting up of the non-Intervention Committee with the double aim of preventing the conflict from spreading to other areas and bring it to an end with all possible speed. In common with the other countries in Europe (with the exception of Switzerland) the Saorstát was represented on the Committee and it fell to this office to keep the Government informed of the Committee's discussions and decisions and to arrange for the taking by the Saorstát Government of the measures agreed upon by the Committee. In addition, when Land and Sea Observation schemes were established with a view to preventing the arrival in Spain of war materials or non-Spaniards proceeding to that country to take part in the conflict, the office made arrangements through the Department for the recruitment of personnel for the two schemes and later for the despatch of the selected officers to this posts.

3. Other activities of the office arising out of the trouble in Spain included the making of arrangements for the evacuation of Saorstát nationals in the early days of the conflict and efforts to secure the repatriation of underage Saorstát nationals who at a later date joined up with one or other of the contending parties.

4. The Coal-Cattle arrangement came up for renewal in the month of January last and, following negotiations which have been reported on by Confidential Despatch, was enlarged in certain important respects. Arising out of this arrangement discussions took place with the appropriate British authorities regarding coal and cement prices.

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9. One of the most important events of the year in the politico-economic sphere was the conclusion of the Trans-Atlantic Air Service Agreement. Current developments in this connection are followed through our representation on the ad hoc Committee which has been set up to receive reports of progress and to deal with the various matters arising for decision between the Governments concerned. This office has also been engaged in obtaining information in regard to airport design and construction in this country and elsewhere and other matters of interest in connection with the establishments to be set up in the Saorstát for the operation of the transatlantic service.

10. Of unique importance, though of short duration, was the constitutional crisis of December last. For many months previously arrangements had been proceeding for the Coronation of Edward VIII and industry had been experiencing something like boom conditions in working to satisfy the enormous demand for pottery and other articles commemorating the event. In little more than a week the crisis was resolved and Edward VIII passed into history. Even the Coronation programme was undisturbed and the present King was crowned with every appearance of popular enthusiasm on the day already fixed for the Coronation of his brother. Though the Government of the Saorstát took no part in the proceedings this office was affected by the event through having undertaken the distribution of 3,000 seats on official stands made available to visitors from the Saorstát.

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20. The work of the Secretarial side of this office ranges over a wide variety of subjects which it is neither necessary no practicable to enumerate in this Report. The registration of nationals under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act continued during the year and brought with it enquiries on such complex questions as the position of Irish nationals in this country in regard to compulsory military service.

21. In connection with the consideration of applications for military service pensions much new work has been thrown on the office, the assistance of which has been invoked in many hundreds of cases for the purpose of ascertaining the facts in regard to the medical history of applicants during periods of political imprisonment in this country or Northern-Ireland or service in the British Army or Navy, and of obtaining particulars of any wound or other pensions received as a result of such latter service.

22. Another activity which increased considerably during the past year was the making of arrangements in suitable cases for the repatriation of Saorstát nationals who had become public charges in this country, the cost of transfer being in all cases borne by the public institution concerned here. The increase of such cases is doubtless a natural consequence of the growth of emigration from the Saorstát to this country which has been observable during the year. Various aspects of this question have been referred to in the press of both countries and the ecclesiastical authorities here have been in consultation with the Office in regard to the measures to be taken to ensure the welfare of Irish girls coming to this country to enter domestic service.

23. The ordering of stores of various kinds for the Department of Defence and the making of arrangements for their delivery and, where necessary, inspection, has figured prominently amongst the activities of the Secretariat. In addition attendances by officers of the Defence Department at various courses of Instruction at the War Office or Air Ministry establishments were arranged and facilities obtained for a study on the spot by officers of the same Department of the organisation of anti-air raid services in this country. Enquiries were also undertaken and visits to suitable centres arranged in connection with the project of establishing a Small Arms factory in the Saorstát, and the training of personnel of the Saorstát Aeronautical Engineering staff.

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