No. 274  NAI DFA 202/1688

Memorandum from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)
'Visits of Foreign Officials to Ireland'

DUBLIN, 23 March 1943

In peace-time, it is most unusual for a member of a foreign Government or a prominent official to visit another country (except for an exclusively personal usually medical reason) without having beforehand ascertained whether such a visit would be agreeable to the Government of the country concerned. In time of war, even an exclusively private visit is covered by this custom. The foreign Government which fails to observe it is regarded as being guilty of a positive act of discourtesy towards the country visited.

Any Irish group or organisation, whether labelled private or not, who invite such persons to this country and give them the impression that the fiat of a British Government Department is sufficient for a visit to Ireland are definitely depreciating the national status of their country to that of a British Colony. It is quite certain, moreover, that no member of a foreign Government, and no official in any way connected with a foreign Government, now residing in London could come to Ireland without the permission of both the British Foreign Office and the British Ministry of Information. It is, therefore, beyond doubt that Senator Douglas,1 who runs the so-called 'Irish Institute of International Affairs', has been in direct touch with the British Government and has deliberately excluded his own Government from any knowledge of these talks. Such a procedure is unheard of in other States, and would, of course, be regarded as little short of treason.

Senator Douglas says that, while in London last week, he met the Prime Minister and several other members of the Norwegian Government. He also spoke to the Greek Minister for Information. One subject at least of his conversation was purely official, that is, the visits of foreign Government officials to this country. He must have known before he went to England that he was going to make these visits. He took no trouble to find out here what the real situation was, and he did not enquire from Mr. Dulanty, who would immediately have been able to give him the necessary information to put foreign Governments right. If a Norwegian or a Greek citizen came to this country and spoke to us about the bad behaviour of their own Governments, we would feel obliged to regard his conduct as incorrect. Discussing with a foreign Government the giving by foreign officials of lectures to private or public groups in this country is definitely an official act which no private person can do without a mandate from his Government.

[matter omitted]

The particular cases referred to by Senator Douglas.
In early September, 1942, the Norwegian Legation in London enquired at the High Commissioner's Office whether two Norwegian bankers could travel to Ireland for discussions with the Currency Commission and the Bank of Ireland. These men were Knud Somme and Arne Raestad. Mr. Fay, of this Department, ascertained from Mr. Brennan, Chairman of the Currency Commission, that he had no knowledge of any such intended visit. Neither had the Bank of Ireland. The Norwegian Legation was informed that the two bankers concerned should request the Currency Commission and the Bank of Ireland to approach the Irish Government for the necessary permission. The Legation thought it a perfectly reasonable request, and nothing further was heard from them about the visit. At an earlier stage, the Norwegian Government had made soundings here as to whether they could appoint a Minister in Dublin. The Prime Minister, Mr. Colban,2 was informed that it would be exceedingly difficult for us to accept such a proposal, as we had made it a rule not to establish, or to allow to be established here, any Legations during the period of the war. As a matter of fact, as Mr. Colban was informed, the Japanese had made a similar request and were turned down. Since then, similar requests were made by the Finnish and Hungarian Governments, and in each case the difficulty was explained to them. When Mr. Dulanty explained our difficulty to Mr. Colban, he was extremely understanding and he actually told the High Commissioner that he was neither surprised nor hurt, as indeed he understood the difficulties and expected that answer. He went on to say that they only made the request because there was somebody in London for whom they had not a post, and it struck them that a Legation in Dublin might offer an easy solution. Mr. Colban and the High Commissioner had an extremely friendly conversation as late as ten days ago, and the relations between ourselves and the other Governments in London have also been extremely friendly.

Senator Douglas then refers to Mr. Michalopoulos, the Greek Minister for Information, who, he writes, 'was refused permission to visit Éire'. This is an untruth. Towards the end of February, the High Commissioner 's Office telephoned to the Greek Minister 's Secretary saying that the Irish Government had learned by accident that he was coming over to Ireland to address an organisation called the 'Irish Institute of International Affairs', and that the High Commissioner would be glad to see Mr. Michalopoulos before making his arrangements to travel to Ireland. On 1st March, the Greek Minister telephoned to the High Commissioner 's Office and said he did not see why he should have to call on the High Commissioner concerning his visit to Ireland. He said he had received an invitation from the 'Irish Institute of International Affairs' on 7th January, and that he proposed to travel to Dublin on 3rd March. That was the whole story and he could not understand why it was necessary to call on the High Commissioner 's Office beforehand. He was then informed that the organisation in question had not informed the Government that he had been invited to give a lecture, and that, in view of the position he held, the omission was a matter which the High Commissioner naturally wished to discuss with him. The Greek Minister immediately said 'In that event, I will send a wire cancelling my visit'. It was suggested to him not to go so far without first discussing the matter with the High Commissioner, but Mr. Michalopoulos said that obviously the organisation should have consulted the Department of External Affairs and that, as they had acted very wrongly in inviting him without the consent of the Irish authorities, he would refuse to have anything to do with them. His final words were 'I will take no part whatever in a matter of this kind in view of what you tell me. That is my final decision'.

It is clear from the foregoing report from the High Commissioner 's Office that the Greek Minister was not refused permission. Nevertheless, the 'Irish Times' on 3rd March, submitted the following note to the Censorship to obtain approval for its publication:-

'A member of the Provisional Greek Government at present established in London has been denied admission to this country. He had signified his intention to visit Dublin next weekend for the purpose of addressing a private meeting of the Institute of International Affairs. It is understood, however, that a ban has been placed on his entrance to this country at the request of the Department of External Affairs which takes the view that they should have been consulted before his visit was arranged.'

Publication was not allowed, but the attempt to publish it shows how far this organisation is ready to go in bedevilling our good relations with foreign Governments. As a matter of fact, our Government had, without success, made a strenuous effort, during the weeks immediately preceding this incident, to obtain the permission of the British Government to send food and medical aid to Greece. Whatever the Greek Minister may have said to Senator Douglas the latter's version of it must be coloured by his disappointment at the failure of methods which he must know to be incorrect and disloyal.

The self-styled 'Irish Institute of International Affairs' is run by Senator Douglas, Donal O'Sullivan,3 J. T. O'Farrell,4 and Frank McDermot5 when he is at home. Its purely propagandist and anti-Irish attitude is indicated by a remark made by J.T. O'Farrell (Railway Union) on one occasion last year. He said that he was thoroughly ashamed of the neutrality of Ireland, that the Irish people were like mutinous sailors on a sinking ship refusing to man the boats until they saw what reward they would get for it. After a lecture given there by Harold Nicolson, M.P.,6 Mr. O'Farrell said that he wanted to associate the organisation with the success of the United Nations. I have not been able to obtain any specific remarks by O'Sullivan though his statements there have been described to me as 'venomously anti-Government and anti-neutral'.

I spoke to Sir John Maffey this morning about this organisation and the methods used by them to get their speakers from England. I told him quite frankly of the hostile and self-seeking attitude of its principals, and I suggested that, when a distinguished Englishman or a distinguished foreigner was to come to this country it would be better that the lecture should be given on a cultural or economic question, such as van Zeeland's7 lecture last year in a public place such as one of the Universities, and that, in the interests of the good relations between the two countries, it was better to avoid 'hole and corner ' organisations which had no standing and could only cause trouble.

Maffey whole-heartedly agreed with me and suggested that I should talk to Dr. Mansergh8 before he went back to England about the whole matter, in order that the British Departments especially the Ministry of Information, should not aid or abet the mischief-makers.

Incidentally, I told Sir John Maffey that I felt that ex-Ministers would be at least as strongly opposed to such methods as were the members of the Government.

Since he came back from London, Douglas has been telling people 'how bad our relations are' with the Governments mentioned. It is also well to note that the relations between the High Commissioner and the Polish Government could not be better. Recently, owing to the bad example given by the 'Irish Institute', the Girl Guides organisation (run by the Powerscourts) invited a Polish lady propagandist closely connected with the Polish Government, to come to Dublin to deliver a lecture in the Mansion House to 1,000 Girl Guides and any others they could fit in. She was also to give a talk in the Shelbourne Hotel to a group of some 450 invitees. We heard of this also purely accidentally, and the High Commissioner told the lady in question that she would have to get the organisation which invited her to go to the Department of External Affairs. Some members of the Committee came to see me and, as they had not the slightest idea of what she was going to talk about, and as their meetings went far beyond anything that had taken place previously, I advised them to drop the whole matter. They did this with a very good grace and thanked me for the advice. The High Commissioner spoke to the Polish Foreign Minister about this case, and about a third visit which Belinski wanted to make to this country. He found that the Polish Foreign Minister had a clear understanding of the situation and of the impropriety of the methods used.

[initialled] J. P. W.

1 James G. Douglas (1887-1954), Senator and businessman.

2Apparently a reference to Erik Colban (1876-1956), the Norwegian Ambassador to London during the Second World War. The Prime Minister of Norway (in 1943 in exile in London) was Johan Nygaardsvold (1879-1952).

3Donal J. O'Sullivan (1893-1973), author of The Irish Free State and its Senate: a study in contemporary politics (Dublin, 1940), Senator (1943-4), lecturer in international affairs at Trinity College Dublin (1949-65).

4John T. O'Farrell, Irish Secretary of the Railway Clerks' Association (1918-49), Senator (1922-36).

5Frank McDermot (1896-1975), politician (National Centre Party and Fine Gael), Senator (1937-42); a prominent critic of Irish neutrality.

6 Harold Nicolson MP (1886-1968), British diplomat, author and diarist. Member of Parliament for Leicester West (National Labour) (1935-45).

7 On 17 November 1942 the Belgian academic and statesman Paul van Zeeland (1893-1973), speaking on the subject of post-war reconstruction, delivered the annual Finlay Lecture at University College Dublin.

8 Dr. Nicholas Mansergh (1910-91), historian, worked for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War, specialising on materials relating to Ireland.


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