No. 111 NAI DFA 219/49

Confidential report from John J. Hearne to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Ottawa, 24 January 1940

I have the honour to refer to recent conversations with Dr. Skelton on the subject of Mr. Hall Kelly's appointment and some other matters.

We discussed the reasons for your suggested change in the status of official representatives in Dublin and Ottawa. I referred to your general policy of assimilating the status of such representatives to that of diplomatic agents in the international sense. Dr. Skelton understood that, of course, but he was anxious to know why you made the approach at this particular time. I said that you had emphasised to me again and again recently the necessity of making our status as a sovereign, independent State clear in connection with our policy of neutrality and in matters of this kind, the matters which were themselves the very criteria of sovereignty. He asked whether the I.R.A. situation had anything to do with it. I said I had no doubt that our domestic peace might ultimately depend upon our being able to show our own people as a whole the character and extent of our achievements in the constitutional field. I said it would have been a magnificent thing for us, both from the national and the international standpoint, if the Canadian representative in Dublin and the Irish representative in Canada could have been accorded a status equal to Sir John Maffey's, a status which – whatever the title of the agent might be – would not be distinguishable, in any material respect, from that of a Minister Plenipotentiary. I cannot tell you how deeply sympathetic Dr. Skelton was, but you need no assurance on that score. Canadian public opinion, however, is not moving rapidly in these matters. 'Canada', Dr. Skelton said, 'is not ready'. I might add in this connection that Mr. King is known (by some of us) to be turning over in his mind the prospects of an immediate general election. Mr. Hepburn's1 recent attack upon him for not prosecuting the war vigorously enough, i.e., for not being 'Empire' enough, is regarded as having given Mr. King the opportunity he has been seeking for an appeal to the country at an earlier date this year than was anticipated. Mr. King will take no such risk to his prospects in the Province of Ontario (and, indeed, elsewhere) as might be involved in his adoption now of a forward constitutional policy in the matter of 'inter se' relationships.2 I reserve for the moment my view on the likelihood or otherwise of Mr. King moving to abolish the appeal to the Privy Council. The Privy Council itself has still to pronounce on the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. That Court has merely decided that the Canadian Parliament has the legal power to abolish the appeal. With Mr. Justice Davies' dissentient judgment, saving Provincial rights, on the record, the question of the policy of abolition may give pause to a Prime Minister soon to seek the suffrages of all – including the opponents of abolition – on his war programme.

You will have observed that the Canadian representative in South Africa is going as a High Commissioner. Mr. David Meyer3 has informed me that when he was appointed Accredited Representative of the Union here the Canadian Government stipulated that their agent in South Africa would be a High Commissioner.

I spoke to Dr. Skelton about references in certain Canadian newspapers to Ireland. A typical caption is 'Irish turmoil'. They give all the bad news and little else. There have been some rather cruel cartoons. Even when the Toronto 'Globe and Mail' recently, in a subleader, made the correction I asked them to make with regard to Mr. McAree's articles (the question of the ports), the subleader was, in parts, a very bad exposition of the constitutional and international position with regard to our neutrality. The Editor-in-Chief sent me a charming letter thanking me for the correction. His exposition (in the subleader) of the situation with regard to the ports was admirable. But he did not appear to see anything wrong, e.g. with publishing in the same article, statements like the following:-

'the King's enemies would be perfectly justified in attacking one of the King's dominions even though it elected to remain neutral.'


'when the King declares war or makes peace each of his Dominions is in a state of war or peace. On the other hand, participation in war depends entirely on the action taken by the Government of Éire, etc.'

Statements like the latter are, of course, based on the Constitution of 1922. I have written to Mr. McIntosh (the Editor-in-Chief) to the effect that I will go into this matter with him when I come to Toronto. He seems friendly enough personally but the tone of his paper is not friendly.

Dr. Skelton told me that they themselves found it extremely difficult to get the correct angle on Canadian affairs over in the United States press. It was impossible, he said, to keep track of press errors and to stop tendentious articles. The only way to deal with the problem, he added, is to issue positive material themselves. They try, in other words, to prevent mistakes from being made, or, at any rate, to reduce the margin of error, by issuing official statements.

Dr. Skelton asked me how our shortwave news service was getting on. I told him the position as already reported to you. He said that the idea was excellent and he encouraged our perseverance. We should, I submit, pick out a more suitable waveband for broadcasts to Canada and step up the power of the station. Dr. Skelton told me that Canada is now seriously thinking of having a shortwave news service. He thinks its value would be enormous.

I think it might be a good thing if we made one or two official statements here on our position and policy with regard to the war. Maurice Walshe's article in the 'Saturday Evening Post' of the 13th January has been widely read. Several people mentioned it to me, friends came to the office with copies of it days after we had seen it. The Toronto 'Globe and Mail' came out with a slashing attack upon its anti-British tone in a long editorial entitled 'Anti-British Neutrality'. It labelled the article as anti-British propaganda, and called upon the authorities here to stop the importation of undesirable literature of that kind. I think that if our neutrality policy is given an anti-British interpretation here that will do us harm. I am sending you a pamphlet on Canada and United States Neutrality written by the Editor of 'Saturday Night' where our neutrality is referred to without bias as within our legal rights and an accomplished fact. But not everyone is as enlightened as Mr. Sandwell.4 Perhaps you would consider sending me a brief statement which I could make sometime about St. Patrick's Day. If you permit Mr. Conway to go to Halifax for the celebrations there on that day perhaps he could make a similar statement at the same time. The statement might deal shortly with e.g. our constitutional position with regard to peace and war and the reasons for our present policy. I emphasise, but must not exaggerate, the importance of this. On the whole we have not a great deal to complain of so far as criticism is concerned, and nothing at all to complain of in the best quarters. I am thinking, however, of the newspapers. I feel it would be a good thing for us to give them one clear, positive and persuasive statement of our whole position. I would not submit to you that we should go on repeating it but just that we put ourselves on record once in some official way. I do not know whether you would wish also to add something about the internal situation at home, something that would beat down on phrases like 'Irish turmoil'. Our friend John Steele5 in a shortwave broadcast on 'The European Scene' from London a fortnight or so ago gave two minutes out of ten to President Hyde's reference of a constitutional issue to the Supreme Court. He had some nice things to say about Article 26 of the Constitution being an ingenious Irish contribution to the solution of problems peculiar to countries governed under written Constitutions.6 I mention this as an example (not a good example, perhaps, but it is to hand) of how news of the country can be made to illustrate life and conditions in Ireland at the present time. No doubt that is what your shortwave news broadcasts are doing: but we do not get them here. Senator McGuire (Toronto) and Mr. Leddy (Saskatoon) came together to see me yesterday, the latter to invite me to Saskatchewan University. They both said that the question people are mostly asking them (who are regarded as, and in fact are representative Irish Canadians) is 'What's wrong with Ireland, why isn't she in the war?' I explained the position to them and they went away entirely satisfied. (I followed the lines of your previous instructions.) They are splendid types of men, well to do, and in high standing. Senator McGuire organized Toronto Irishmen behind the Mansion House Conference in 1919.

I hope you will not think that I am laying too much emphasis on my submission that we should issue an official statement, or that I should say something in public along the lines suggested. In my broadcast I avoided political issues altogether as you directed and that was wise on that occasion. I feel, however, more and more the need for a clear-cut positive line. It would confirm our friends in their faith in the present national leadership and it might help to bring journals now not favourable a little nearer to us. I hope (when I move out of Ottawa) to get in touch personally with the editors and others who control the policy of those journals. The press here in Ottawa want me to keep them right. Mr. Grattan O'Leary, e.g. asked me on the 13th January at our house to draw his attention to anything we do not like in the 'Journal'. He apologised for the map to which we took exception and agreed it was a bad mistake made through inadvertence. Many have told me that the press has improved in tone generally towards Ireland since our arrival and that editors are gradually realizing that there is an Irish mission in Ottawa taking note of what is said and quietly drawing attention to any mistakes about the facts of current Irish history. I thought it right to ask the Minister for Finance, through Dr. Skelton, to delete from the print of his broadcast speech last week, on the 200,000,000 dollars Canadian War Loan, a reference to the Irishman who asked whether a certain fight was a private fight or could anyone join in. Mr. Ralston7 gladly deleted the reference and expressed his gratitude to me (Dr. Skelton had supported me). Mr. Ralston had meant no harm, of course (he is a good friend of ours), but on the other hand, I thought it right to have attention drawn (without fuss) to the reference in a speech of such importance by a member of the Cabinet.

Let me add two more instances which would appear to show the necessity for a positive interpretation of our position. In a recent broadcast from Toronto, a sort of 'cavalcade' of events of the year 1939, the compàre said 'February 1939: Premier de Valera announces that Éire will support the mother country in the event of war'! Again, in the Canadian Hansard for the 17th March 1939 I find the following:

'National Defence:
Attitude of Mr. De Valera and Canadian Departmental Estimates'.
On the orders of the day:
MR. DANIEL McIVOR (Fort William): I should like to direct a question to the Minister of National Defence (Mr. MacKenzie) with the view that the estimates of his department might be cut down. As Mr. De Valera has now decided to fight alongside of Great Britain, do we now need to spend as much on national defence?
Hon. IAN MACKENZIE (Minister of National Defence): I greatly appreciate that splendid Hibernian contribution to national defence.

These examples show how events and speeches can be misinterpreted. Our answer to these statements might, perhaps, be a short account of Mr. De Valera's Statements on his neutrality policy before and since the outbreak of war.

[signed] John J. Hearne

1 Mitchell F. Hepburn (1896-1953), Premier of Ontario (1934-42); an opponent of MacKenzie King who felt that Canada should be doing more to support the war effort.

2 Meaning 'between or amongst ourselves' in Latin and used in Commonwealth terms to denote the international unity of the Dominions and Britain as one unit. Britain held that relations between Dominions were intra-Commonwealth, and not international, relations. Ireland strongly opposed this view and in the 1920s succeeded in establishing many precedents against the British position.

3 Dr David de Waal Meyer, South African Trade Representative to Canada, later Accredited Representative of the Union of South Africa to Canada.

4 Bernard K. Sandwell (1876-1954), editor of Saturday Night, a liberal Canadian general-interest magazine.

5 BBC journalist based in London with whom Walshe was in correspondence and who later often took an anti-Irish line, apparently inspired by the Ministry of Information.

6 The Article dealing with the reference of Bills to the Supreme Court.

7 James Layton Ralston (1881-1948), Canadian Minister for Finance (1939-40), Minister for National Defence (1940-4).

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