No. 158 NAI DFA Secretary's Files A20/3

Letter from Leopold H. Kerney to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Madrid, 23 April 1940

Dear Mr. Walshe,

This is just to deal with the latter part of your confidential minute of 12th.1

I have reached the conclusion that there are occult influences working against Frank Ryan; I do not attach much importance, at least not at this late stage, to hostility originating in Ireland; that will not carry much weight at present; but I am struck now and again by some stray remarks in the course of conversations – insignificant when taken separately but which, when summed up, force me gradually to the conclusion that there is secret opposition from another country than Ireland. Whilst the attitude of the government as a whole is anything but pro-English, there are officials here and there, and not in Foreign Affairs alone, who are susceptible to English influence.

I have mentioned the name of Walter Meade2 in some of my reports; he held the view two years ago that this was the position, and today he is absolutely emphatic on the point; he has been of great assistance to me, as you know. He distrusted completely Domingo de las Barcenas, who used to be Under-Secretary, who is now back in Berne as Minister (and who, incidentally, hates Beigbeder like poison); he held the same opinion of his son, Juan, who till a few days ago was Chief of Cabinet to Beigbeder, and who is a Stonyhurst3 boy; another person in the background is Bolin (head of the Tourist Department), a very close friend of Franco, and who was sent by de la Cierva from London with an English aeroplane to the Canaries in July 1936 to take Franco to Morocco; Bolin used to be correspondent of the A.B.C. in London and I think it was in 1936 that he contributed to his paper an out-and-out anti-Irish article.

The Duchess of Tetuan is completely puzzled by the retention of Ryan, and thinks there is something 'louche' somewhere.

Peche, the new Under-Secretary, whom I saw on 20th April, dodged the issue when I tried to get him to make some statement which might show that he shared the belief of the Minister that prisoners would be released within 3 months; he told me other heads of Missions were also pressing for the release of their nationals and that the War Office was taking its time; but Meade knows for a positive fact that General Lopez Pinto (whom I convinced in Burgos) sent forward to the War Office a very favourable report ('informe'), that this 'informe' has been accepted and adopted at the War Office, and that it is recorded there about Ryan 'que no es culpable'. Meade used to be Aide-de-Camp to General Alonso Vega who is acting as Under-Secretary to the Minister for War; his information is first-hand. If Beigbeder is favourable, as I believe, and if his colleague at the War Office is favourable – well, there must be a nigger in the woodpile somewhere. I now aim at getting the Minister for War to take the initiative of mentioning the matter direct to Beigbeder – short-circuiting administrative intermediaries, who may act as a barrier.

There was a time when my interest in Frank Ryan aroused suspicion in some quarters here; I have lived that down; my relations with everybody at the Foreign Office, from the Minister down, are very smooth and friendly.

I am afraid that we must agree to differ about that suggestion of mine which strikes you as being so thoroughly bad; I think I know the Spaniards better than you do; the Americans mentioned cotton and the Spaniards gave way; the English would not sign a trade treaty without a promise of immediate release of Englishmen; forceful arguments are necessary at times, at least in Spain; I know my suggestion to be thoroughly good, but I defer of course to your view. Can you imagine a Government claiming a ransom of £5,000 in a case which is fresh in your memory? You cannot always compare one Government with another.

With kind regards,
Yours sincerely,
[signed] L.H. Kerney

1 See No. 152.

2 Walter Meade, the son of an Irish émigré to Spain, was General Eoin O'Duffy's driver and interpreter.

3 Jesuit Catholic boarding school in Lancashire founded in 1593.

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