No. 45  NAI DFA Secretary's Files A2

Extract from a memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe of a meeting with
Sir John Maffey

DUBLIN, 21 April 1941

Sir John Maffey came to see me, at his request, at 11.30 this morning.

[matter omitted]

He went through Belfast the morning after the raid there on the night of 15th-16th April, and he said that it was more horrifying than London because of the number of small dwelling houses of poor people which were destroyed. He said that the Northern Government were extremely appreciative of the measures we had taken to help them, and he himself emphasised the extraordinary amount of good that was bound to come from such gestures.1 He expressed himself as exceedingly gratified at the statement made by the Taoiseach at Castlebar on Saturday.2

He introduced the subject of the Balkans without any question on my part. He said the situation was exceedingly grave and he had no doubt whatever that the British troops would have to retire. From the beginning he believed the situation was forlorn, but his Government had to send troops there in order to show their solidarity with the Greeks and the Yugoslavs. They had expected the Yugoslavs to hold out for at least two months, and, if they had held out even for a month, it would have meant a great change in the situation. Generally, he felt exceedingly pessimistic about the present phase of the war, but, even if the British had to abandon the whole Mediterranean area, Britain itself would remain the centre of resistance and the point from which final victory would be achieved.

I asked him had he any fears about the Russians and the Japanese. I had often said to him I believed the Russians were the supreme devils in diplomacy: they were quite unscrupulous and ruthless. Did he not think it was likely that they would push down at a very early date towards the Persian Gulf. After all, it had always been their ambition to have ports on the warm seas, and their recent pact with the Japanese left them free for new adventures.3

He said he had fears about Russia and Japan, but his own people had told him that the Russians were very worried indeed about the victorious onward march of the Germans. I did not like to remind him that his own people have been always wrong about Russia's feelings and intentions. I only remarked that I was afraid that there was a pretty close unity of policy and plans between Russia and Germany.

[signed] J. P. WALSHE

1 No contemporary documents on the dispatch of fire fighters to Belfast were located whilst compiling this volume. However on 24 April 1951, Tim O'Driscoll, Assistant Secretary at the Department of External Affairs, minuted that 'Ambassador Boland's recollection of the incident is that the Taoiseach, on receiving word from Mr. Walshe of the request from Belfast, called a Conference in the early hours of the morning and after discussion the "go ahead” was given. Mr. Boland gave his personal opinion that the Taoiseach had even before the discussion given an "all clear” to the fire brigades.' (NAI DFA 243/431)

2 Speaking after the bombing of Belfast de Valera told an audience in Castlebar that 'in the past, and probably at present' some members of the Northern Ireland government 'did not see eye to eye with us politically, but they are our people, their sorrow is our sorrow, and I want to say that any help we can give them will be given wholeheartedly'. See Irish Times, 21 Apr. 1941.

3 The Japanese-Soviet Non-aggression Pact, signed 13 Apr. 1941.

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