No. 282  NAI DFA Secretary's Files A2

Memorandum from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

DUBLIN, 24 April 1943

British Internees
Sir John Maffey came to see me this morning at 10.30. During his last visit a few days ago, we had discussed the possibility of exchanging the internee airmen. On that occasion he was very hopeful that it could now be arranged, but he said this morning that the British Intelligence had given a definitely adverse decision. They felt that the German internees had been here too long and got to know too much about the country and could conceivably be used as parachutist agents at a later date. On the other hand, his Government had asked him to press for the release of those British airmen who had made forced landings here and who were not on operational flights. He said they had made a careful examination of the full list of 33 British internees and had found that only 13 of them could be regarded as having been on operational flights.

I replied that such a step would present many difficulties. Could not the Germans make an analogous case. I quite realised that the relative geographical situation militated against any such German arguments, but the difficulty was a real one nevertheless. There certainly could be no question of releasing a whole group of the internees at the same time.

Sir John Maffey suggested that we might consider making public the principle on which we were now going, viz., that only such airmen were being interned as were definitely engaged on operational flights against the other belligerent.

I told him I would bring the matter to your attention.

2. Spanish Memorandum
As the American Press had mentioned that Ireland had been invited to form a kind of Neutral League with Spain and other countries, I thought it better to let Maffey know that we had received a vague memorandum from the Spanish Government suggesting that we could collaborate together in supporting the action of the Pope in relation to the right of small countries to remain at peace. We had not, however, received any formal invitation from the Spanish Government to join in any kind of League, and you had instructed our Minister in Spain to say that it would be better for each country separately to support the Papal principles, that in effect we had been doing that already, and that the most fruitful results would come from such separate and spontaneous support. I referred Maffey to the statement (in Tuesday's 'Manchester Guardian') made by the Swedish Foreign Office in connection with reports from London about a supposed approach by Spain to the Swedish Government. The statement made by the Swedish Foreign Office was 'Sweden does not participate in any mediating action or in any other political action whatever jointly with other neutral States'. I explained to Maffey that I gave him this information because you did not wish either him or his Government to come to wrong conclusions through rumours which might appear in this connection in the Press.

I took the occasion of Maffey's visit to tell him about the report we had received from the High Commissioner in Canada on some remarks made to him by Mr. Anthony Eden.1 He expressed the greatest surprise that Eden should have so distorted the purpose of my visit to London in November, and he said that, during his visit to London next week, he would see Eden and tell him how embarrassing his remarks were, not only for me personally but also for him (Maffey), because he had been instrumental in arranging the entire visit. Eden's statement that I had come on a mission from you was, therefore, entirely groundless.

Incidentally, I have frequently spoken to Maffey about the need of explaining, and repeatedly explaining, to people like Anthony Eden, Churchill and Attlee the very remarkable part being played by Irishmen and Irishwomen in the English-speaking section of the Catholic Church. Apart altogether from America where the Irish were so largely responsible for the growth and development of the great power of the Catholic Church, their work in British Colonies and in the Dominions was relatively just as great. This morning, Maffey said that he intended to send a long memorandum to his people on the place of Ireland in the post-war world, and he would like to be able to put in a section on this aspect of our world influence, which he admits to be very real. He asked my help in composing this part of his memorandum. I promised to do so, and also to establish contacts for him with some of the chief missionary Orders here. I told him specifically that, when he came back, I would get him to meet in my house Fr. Leen2 and Mother Mary Martin,3 to begin with. Both of these, as you know, have a great knowledge of our missionary effort in British Colonies. In this connection, I referred to the assumption, now occasionally appearing in the British Press (for instance, the 'Evening Standard' of April 21st in an article by Prof. Commager4 of Columbia University), that we be left out in post-war planning. I was quite sure that he felt as we did that any such pre-meditated attitude could not bring any good to Great Britain or America. Indeed, for anybody who examined all the factors seriously, it would be regarded as illiberal and unprincipled. Such threats of exclusion were not used against the other neutral States, and it was hard to see how the selection of Ireland as the victim could be a help in future Anglo-American relations.

Maffey agreed completely with our view. He said he took little account of what journalists said, and we should make allowance even for some of his Ministers who, without a proper knowledge of the Irish background, might occasionally express such sentiments in moments of irritation or special elation.

[initialled] J. P. W.

1 See No. 278.

2 Father Edward Leen CSSp. (1885-1944), academic, theologian and missionary.

3 Máire Helena 'Mother Mary' Martin (1892-1975), founder of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (1936).

4 Professor Henry Steele Commager (1902-98), American historian and public intellectual who taught at Columbia University from 1936 to 1956.

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