No. 241 NAI DFA 2006/39

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 45) (Secret) (Copy)

London, 25 July 1940

On the long outstanding question of the proposed comprehensive agreement to govern the trading relations between ourselves and the British, I have repeatedly pressed for a decision with the senior officials concerned, Mr. Lloyd, Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Food; Mr. Jenkins, Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, and Sir William Brown, Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade; Sir Quintin Hill, Financial Secretary, Ministry of Food; Sir Henry French, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Food; and Viscount Caldecote. The latter told me that he had written to Lord Woolton who had replied with assurances that there was no delay.

Getting no satisfaction I saw Lord Woolton at his Office on Saturday afternoon last. I represented to him the great dissatisfaction of my Government at the unjustifiable delay on the part of the British. It seemed open to the interpretation that the British knew we had no other market and they were therefore adopting tactics of dilatoriness, not to say discourtesy. If our supplies were of any importance to them this unexplained delay was the right way to dry up the sources of that supply. The drop in price was already operating against us in lambs and live pigs.

Lord Woolton laughed at my remark about discourtesy.

I told him there was soreness throughout our agricultural community and there was also an increasing deterioration in the feelings of our people towards Britain. There had been a sustained campaign in the British press against our neutrality, coinciding with an unfriendly attitude in a section of the American press and, in various broadcasts from London by American commentators, implying that the British should invade our shores. It was not to be wondered at if the doubt existed in Ireland that these simultaneous activities were merely fortuitous and in no way inspired. It would be far better to give a decision, even if it were a refusal to meet our difficulties, than for the British to pursue this policy of delay.

Lord Woolton said he was a businessman and not a politician. He was responsible to Parliament and the British people for buying food supplies on a business basis. He was not in favour of our Ministers crossing over to London at the end of April last because he felt that he was not in a position to assist them. If the market proved advantageous to us he was willing and ready to pay, but if in other commodities as for example butter the market was against us, he was sorry that he could not alter his position as a buyer. If he did he would have the High Commissioners of New Zealand and Australia pressing immediately for the same favourable consideration he had shown the Irish. If, for political considerations, the War Cabinet thought fit to arrange special terms for the Irish, he had no objection. He said that he had been impressed by what I had said and he would go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and suggest that since he (Lord Woolton) could not depart from his 'market' attitude the Chancellor should consider making a grant to maintain supplies from Éire.

I said that it would be impossible at any time, but more particularly now for the Irish Government to accept what really amounted to a direct subsidy.

I had understood from discussions with other Departments that an arrangement with regard to cattle – which contained no competitive element – was a feasible plan. Lord Woolton did not agree but said he would look further into it.

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