No. 225  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/14/1

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 26) (Secret)

LONDON, 1 September 1942

The general impression here of Mr. Attlee has been and is that though a man of integrity he is not nearly big enough or forceful enough for his position as Chairman of the Labour Party which position is his through the purely fortuitous circumstance that alone of all the members of the Labour Front Bench he retained his seat in the last General Election but one. Leadership of the largest Opposition party in the House of Commons thus casually gained is, as you know, the sole reason for his being Deputy Prime Minister today.

Prior to my conversations with him on the Belfast sentences he appeared to be friendly enough towards our questions, even though he was nearly always evasive. I felt too he was nervous or unsure of himself and his forced geniality (not infrequently a symptom of nervousness) supported this view. The High Commissioners for Australia,1 South Africa2 and New Zealand3 formed much the same opinion.

On the Belfast sentences his demeanour has been entirely different. Instead of his usual habit of saying very little and that little inconclusive, there was a run of, for him, vigorous argument and his customary geniality gave place to a cold and detached attitude in marked contrast to that of active sympathy on the part of Mr. Eden4 and the Duke of Devonshire5 when the Coventry sentences were the subject of discussion.

Yesterday he took the line that our original case was based on the ground that six for one would be an outrage. Now we had moved our ground. When I gave him certain facts concerning Williams he said with some asperity that they were not going to re-try the case. I told him they were not asked to do that. What about the poor policeman so cruelly shot? If he (Mr. Attlee) went about with arms firing in the street and shot a policeman that would be murder. He didn't know what the law was in Ireland but that was the law here. I asked him whether the Government of this country would prohibit meetings and send armed police into the houses of respectable citizens, damage their furniture with no compensation and insult their nationality. He said there were probably two sides to that story. I restrained myself from saying what I thought of an erstwhile Left Wing Labour candidate who owed his position in Parliament to a big Irish Catholic vote, many of whom were doubtless relatives of the ill-treated minority in Belfast. The conversation yesterday was as unsatisfactory as the two talks last week.

Conceivably he might have been putting up a stiff front to me and working hard for us with his colleagues. If so he was most successful in concealing that or the least inkling of understanding of our case.

[signed] J. W. DULANTY

1 Stanley Bruce (1883-1967), Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom (1933-46).

2 Sidney Waterson (1896-1976), South African High Commissioner in the United Kingdom

3 (1939-42)

4 Sir William J. Jordan (1879-1959), New Zealand High Commissioner in the United Kingdom

5 The Duke of Devonshire was Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs from May to September 1938

6 Anthony Eden had held the post of Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs from 1939 to

7 1940.

8 The Duke of Devonshire was Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs from May to

9 September 1938.


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