No. 150  NAI DFA Secretary's Files A34

Memorandum from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)
'The Case of Mr X'

DUBLIN, 28 November 1941

I attach a note from Dr. Rynne1 on the main legal and international aspects of the problem which now comes up for consideration. I am adding the following brief comments:-

1. One strong reason why small neutrals do not punish foreign agents with severity is the fact that they could not do so without screening themselves behind the other belligerent and becoming more dependent on it for future protection. They would, moreover, be exposed to the accusation of acting on behalf of the other belligerent, since the activities concerned are usually directed in the last resort against that Power. It is a generally accepted custom that small Powers in their international dealings should not take measures involving great Powers out of proportion to their capacity to defend themselves, whether by diplomatic or military methods. Without the very gravest cause, they do not expose themselves to reprisals which would oblige them to seek the protection of the other belligerent.

2. A public trial, with all its accompanying sensationalism, would at least give an opportunity to American interventionist newspapers to attack all the Irish groups who, at our request, have been defending us against the charge of being an elaborate spy centre.

3. What is the solution? Can we certify that our central Criminal Court is not capable of seeing that justice is done in order to send the case before the Military Tribunal? A severe sentence there might be treated by the foreign Power as an act of the executive. On the other hand, a trial in camera by the Tribunal and the imposition of a sentence less than death, followed by a brief official note in the Press, is certainly one way out. I am now convinced, however, that, whether we resort to trial by the Tribunal or to mere internment, we should regard the foreign Government itself as the principal culprit, and we should, therefore, send them an exceedingly strong Note through our own Legation protesting against such activities. When the moment appears opportune for doing this, it would seem to be advisable that you should summon the Minister and point out to him the gravity of the situation which has arisen between the two Governments.

4. It is relevant to mention the fact that there are over 60 Irish citizens in Germany, some 450 in Italy, and 700 or 800 in France and Belgium. Professor Wyndham Hewitt, of Palermo, is reported to be the head of the British Secret Service in Italy. Miss Lucy Cummins,2 of Dublin, is at present detained in Brussels on an accusation of espionage. We are keeping in touch with her case through Warnock. A case has been reported from Paris of an Irish citizen having been discovered with a wireless transmitter. Of course, all these people have been acting on behalf of the British Government and the analogy is only partial. The Germans released some 300 Irish citizens from internment camps in France on our representations that they were Irish citizens although not carrying Irish passports. Generally, it can be said that the German Government have taken special pains to obtain information for us about our citizens in the occupied countries and to allow us to keep them in touch with their relatives here.

1 Not printed.

2 Not Lucy, but Mary Cummins, who was imprisoned for resistance activities in France. Cremin successfully petitioned for her release and took her with his family to Switzerland in 1945.

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