No. 195  NAI DFA Secretary's Files A2

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe of a conversation with Sir John Maffey and
David Gray

DUBLIN, 31 March 1942

Sir John Maffey and Mr. David Gray came to see me this morning at 11 o'clock. The former had rung up the office while I was out on Saturday morning saying that he and Mr. Gray wished to see me about foreign propaganda.

Sir John Maffey began the conversation and said that Gray had suggested to him that they should come and talk to me about the propaganda bulletins which were being circulated by the Legations in Dublin. Gray added that his Government wished him to issue an elaborate bulletin and he wanted to talk generally about that. They did not appear to have laid their plans well because they contradicted each other on several occasions about the incidental purposes of the visit. It very soon became clear, however, that they were at one about the ultimate object, namely, the suppression by us of the German bulletin.

Maffey said that his Government might cease to supply us with newsprint if the German bulletin continued to appear. I objected to the threat and suggested that it was an undemocratic procedure. He then 'mended his hand' and said that what he really meant was that some Member of Parliament would raise the whole question of the German bulletin in the House of Commons and would follow it up by a demand for the withholding of newsprint from Ireland.

I suggested that there was less German propaganda in Ireland than in any other neutral country. We had no printed books or pamphlets from Germany, whereas our bookshops were heavily stocked with British printed propaganda of all kinds. The German bulletin itself was a restrained production. It quoted in the main objective news items from the German radio. It had at one time been rather objectionable about certain personages in Great Britain and America, but, as Maffey knew, we had made representations to the German Minister and this feature had now disappeared from the bulletin.

Maffey continued, however, to elaborate on the size of the German bulletin (and of the Italian bulletin), and he added that to allow them to continue seemed to be against the principle laid down by the Taoiseach that this country would not be made a base for any kind of activity against Great Britain. The bulletin itself was not perhaps a serious form of activity, but the Government should try to look at it from the point of view of English public opinion.

I showed them some of the bulletins which were being issued by Legations and Consulates on the Allied side, and I indicated in particular that the Belgian bulletin was incomparably more propagandist and more violent than the Axis productions.

It became clear as the conversation went on that both Gray and Maffey would willingly see all the bulletins suppressed if that were the only means to put an end to the German bulletin. I had to explain to them that we had our own public opinion to consider. It was perhaps regrettable that any of these bulletins had ever begun their existence, but our people would consider it strange from the point of view of our neutrality if we suppressed the relatively insignificant German propaganda and continued to allow the vast stream of British propaganda to pour into the country. I told them that it was the Department's conviction, based on sad experience, that we should have more peace and tranquillity if all the bulletins could be got rid of, and the British propaganda as well, but the Government had an exceedingly difficult task in maintaining the delicate balance of public opinion and they would have to be guided primarily by their convictions as to what was best for their own people.

Gray then proceeded to make some detailed suggestions about British and American Legation bulletins. They could both be shown to the Department for approval before issue, provided the Axis bulletins were similarly treated.

I rejected this suggestion at once. I felt it was a cheap trick, but I did not say so. I put him off on the ground that the Department had enough to do already without taking on the burden of examining the whole series of propagandist bulletins in detail, and no doubt having to take the major responsibility for what would eventually appear in them.

Gray then made a similar proposal in relation to the censorship, which I also rejected.

In the course of the conversation, Gray made some extremely irritating remarks, such as the following:-

'America is in a lynching humour with Ireland because she does not give up the ports.'
'Ireland owes all her supplies to the British and American Fleets.'
'Ireland is very careful not to send a single thing to Great Britain of which she herself has the slightest need.'

I asked him who exactly were in the 'lynching humour' with us. Was it the State Department or the American people? Was he not trying to foist on the American people views which he so unjustly held himself?

Maffey intervened at this stage, and remarked to Gray that the fundamental thing for Britain and America to remember was that they had not succeeded in convincing the Irish people of the justice of their great cause. He (Maffey) objected to Gray's mention of the ports because it seemed to make a trivial issue of what was really a great moral cause.

Towards the end, after a certain fraying of tempers on both sides, Gray asked me whether there would be any objection to the American Legation publishing a bulletin. I replied that I felt quite certain that my Minister would be delighted to see an American bulletin issued by the Legation and would take a great interest in it.

Things became more friendly before they went away, and Maffey asked me to lunch for the following day. As I had raised the question of America refusing to give us arms in one of my retorts to Gray's accusations, he said that he would come back again to talk to me about the whole question of arms.

Wednesday, 1st April,

I saw the German and Italian Ministers separately today. I spoke to both of them about the shortage of paper and asked them to reduce the size of their bulletins as much as they could, and at least to use both sides of each sheet. I went into some detail with the German Minister about certain items appearing in his bulletin recently and I advised him strongly against writing up the German Youth Movement which was suspect in this country for religious reasons about which I had frequently spoken to him.

Both Ministers agreed to shorten their bulletins and to use both sides of the paper.

[initialled] J. P. W.

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