No. 334 NAI DFA Secretary's Files A2

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe of a meeting with Sir John Maffey

Dublin, 13 November 1940

Sir John Maffey called to see me this morning at his suggestion. He had been in London for four or five days, and I was rather surprised that he had deferred a call so long, as he had returned on Saturday, 9th. However, the delay can no doubt be explained by Mr. Churchill's speech on Tuesday, 5th, and the Taoiseach's reply on 7th.

He began by talking generally about the effect of the bombing in London. To the casual visitor, there was little trace of serious damage. He stayed at the Wyndham Club. His breakfast, lunch and dinner were served as usual. He could go out and take a taxi where he liked. All this independently of the fact that the raids were frequent and the German bombers could be heard occasionally overhead. He had not been to the East End, but he knew that there at least the damage was pretty serious.

I asked him what he thought about the Molotov visit to Berlin. He said he thought it very serious, though he personally always felt opposed to any kind of British alliance with Russia, as it could bring no real advantage to their cause.

After a few general remarks of no particular importance about the world situation, he went on to the purpose of his call. He stated that he found the Dominions Office worried about Churchill's statement. They had known nothing beforehand about it, and, of course, the statement was typically Churchillian. Nevertheless, he must say, in defence of Churchill, that he merely expressed regret at the loss of the ports, and, of course, as far as Churchill was concerned, there was no question of any threat to seize the ports. I remarked at this point that the Taoiseach would not have made his statement if Churchill's speech had not been followed by several speeches in the House of Commons dotting the is and crossing the ts of what the Prime Minister had said, and leading our people to believe that there was a serious threat involved. The situation became worse when there was a general Press chorus the following day on a still higher pitch, and this spread to the United States.

Maffey said that, of course, as he had said before, the Press will say what they want to say, just as Members of Parliament will, and we should attach official significance only to what was said by the Prime Minister himself. He regretted the whole matter and hoped it had now blown over.

His purpose in going to the other side was mainly to discuss the trade agreement. Of course, he had not found the atmosphere too good on account of the Prime Minister's statement, but he did succeed in persuading them that the trans-shipment condition was unwisely included in the draft agreement, that naturally the Irish Government felt it might be a means of dragging us into the war. In fact, he said, he had pressed that point so strongly that they had agreed to drop it. The Dominions Office were now examining our memorandum on the proposals, the matter would, of course, have to go to the Cabinet, and he hoped we should get a reply fairly soon. On the other hand, he had no hope for an increase in prices, whatever chance we might have of getting some contribution analogous to the £500,000 already discussed.

While he was in London, Maffey had discussed with the Dominions Office the difficulties in which he was frequently placed by British journalists coming to Dublin and publishing in the London papers articles injurious to the good relations between the two countries. He suggested that he should have a Press Attaché here, and he asked me if there was any objection. I told him that, as it was quite a normal thing for Legations in every country to have a Press Attaché, we did not wish to raise any objection. On the contrary, if the Press Attaché was going to help him to keep unfriendly articles out of the British Press, as I am sure he would, we should be very glad to see him here. I had, of course, in mind, the difficulty of objecting to the presence of a Press Attaché in the British Legation so long as there was a Press Attaché in the German Legation. The request was a perfectly fair one, and we can make a strong case with Maffey when the British Press goes wrong. It is, of course, quite clear that the Press Attaché will try to influence our Press to insert more British propaganda, but that is a situation we shall have to face.

At the end, Maffey once more expressed his desire to have the Taoiseach for lunch, and I said that perhaps now, as the country was more organised, the Taoiseach was subject to less pressure and would be able to go. He suggested lunch for 25th (Monday) or 28th (Thursday), and I told him that I would convey the invitation to the Taoiseach.

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