No. 408 NAI DFA P22

Memorandum on questions affecting the Department of External Affairs which
would arise in the event of an invasion of Ireland, with covering note from Frederick
H. Boland to Maurice Moynihan (Dublin)

Dublin, 28 January 1941

With reference to your minutes S.12223 of the 9th and 14th January,1 I am directed by the Minister for External Affairs to forward herewith a note of a number of questions affecting this Department which would arise in the event of an attack on this country.

With regard to the documents referred to in your minute of the 9th January, I am to invite attention to paragraph 3 of the memorandum. The matter referred to in you minute of the 14th January is dealt with in paragraph 4 of the memorandum.

[stamped] (signed) F.H. Boland

Note of questions affecting the Department of External Affairs which would arise in the event of an invasion.

  1. Declaration of war on the aggressor

    In the event of resistance to unprovoked aggression, a formal declaration of war by the invaded country is neither usual nor required by international law. In the event of this country being attacked therefore, a formal declaration of war by the Government would not be necessary and, as it would tend to obscure the defensive character of the Government's action, it were better avoided. When on the eve of the invasions of Greece and Belgium, the Italian and German Ministers respectively presented notes containing demands to the Foreign Ministers concerned, the reply made in each case was that the note was regarded as a declaration of war. A similar course might be adopted here according to the circumstances.
  2. Declaration of war on Italy in the event of invasion by Germany.

    If we are invaded by Germany, the question of our relations with Italy will at once arise. Particularly having regard to the large number of Irish citizens in ecclesiastical colleges and religious communities in Italian territory, it is proposed that there should not be an immediate rupture of relations with, or declaration of war on, Italy. Such action can be taken later if circumstances render it necessary, but the question of complying with Article 28 of the Constitution may then arise. It will be remembered that Greece did not declare war on Germany when she was invaded by Italy and is still in diplomatic relations with the former country.
  3. Notifications and protests to foreign powers.

    The Minister for External Affairs proposes to issue instructions at once to the representatives abroad to ensure that, in the event of invasion, a note in the terms of the enclosed text2 will be presented at once to all the friendly governments with whom we are in diplomatic relations. A protest in diplomatic form to the Government of the invading power would not be usual or desirable.
  4. Requests for aid from foreign powers.

    The procedure with regard to any request for aid the Government might decide to make in the event of invasion has, in part, been settled already. It is considered preferable to leave such measures as have not already been decided upon to be determined in the light of the prevailing circumstances.
  5. Diplomatic representation in belligerent capitals.

    In the event of war, it is usual for each belligerent to entrust the interests of its nationals in the territory of the other to the care of a 'neutral power'. Formal communications on such matters as the observance of the Red Cross Conventions, the Hague Conventions on the rules of land warfare, etc., are made through the 'neutral power'. The Minister at Washington has been instructed to ask the United States Government in confidence whether in the event of war they would be willing to take charge of Irish interests in Germany, and, if necessary, Italy.
  6. Repatriation, etc. of diplomatic staffs

    The Minister for External Affairs is anxious that the measures to be taken in the event of invasion to restrict the movements, etc. of the diplomatic representative of the invading country, his staff and their families should be discussed and settled in detail beforehand. He is accordingly arranging for an early discussion of the matter between representatives of the Departments of External Affairs, Justice, and Defence.
  7. Activity of Irish diplomatic missions abroad

    The Irish diplomatic missions abroad will have instructions to regard their primary task under the new circumstances as one of propaganda. They will work to foster sympathy and counter the propaganda broadcast by the invader in defence of his action. A major role in this work will be played by the Legation in Washington, and, if communications are cut off, the Washington Legation will act as the co-ordinating agency for all the offices abroad. The question of ensuring that any Irish assets and bank balances in the United States will not be 'frozen' by the Executive Order, which it is the practice of the United States Government to make in respect of invaded countries, is under discussion between the Departments of External Affairs and Finance.
  8. Formal notifications to the enemy Government.

    The Minister at Washington and the Chargé d'Affaires at Berne are being given instructions to ensure that, in the event of invasion, the notifications listed in paragraphs 2, 4 and 5 of the enclosure to the Department of Defence minute S.255 of the 11th January3 will be made at once. They are respectively certain notifications required by the Prisoners of War Convention 1929, the Red Cross Convention 1929 and the Hague Convention of 1907. The Swiss Government has already been informed that the Irish Red Cross Society is the sole authorised Society so far as Ireland is concerned for the purposes of Article 10 of the Red Cross Convention of 1929.

The following matters will also arise in the event of invasion but may have been already dealt with:-

  1. Appointment of Custodian of Enemy Property.

    In the event of invasion all or many of the nationals of the invading country resident here would presumably be interned at once and would no longer be able to look after their businesses. International practice requires that in such a case due provision should be made to safeguard the interests and property of the enemy aliens. In our case this would best be done by appointing a 'Custodian of Enemy Property' to take over the necessary work. The Custodian could be a firm of Accountants working on a fee basis but legislation would be required to empower and indemnify them.
  2. Seizures of ships in the event of invasion.

    In the event of our being invaded or becoming involved in war, the ships in our harbours registered in enemy or enemy occupied territory would become properly seizable.

1 Neither document printed.

2 See No. 409.

3 Not printed.

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