No. 61 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/8

Extracts from a letter from Michael MacWhite to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Rome, 28 December 1945

Dear Joe,
[matter omitted]
I do not know if the Irish papers reported the incident at the Moscow Conference the other day when Bevin cited the case of Ireland's neutrality in the war to justify his claim that the Dominions were independent States and should be allowed to participate in the Peace negotiations. It seems that Byrnes backed him up with the same argument. Canada and Australia have I am sure taken good note. This is not the first occasion that the status of Ireland has been invoked at an International Conference in justification of England's demands. You recall her plea for precedence over France at the Council of Constance1 on the assumption that the sovereignty of Ireland, one of the four great States of Christendom, had passed over to her. The authority of Joseph De Glanville2 and Albertus Magnus3 was cited for this classification. No reference to it has, however, been found in the works of the great Dominican Saint.

The Roman press takes a gloomy view of Italy's prospects as a result of the Moscow agreement. Many regard it as a retrograde step which effaces eighteen months of co-belligerency. There is no reference to Italy's contribution to the war of liberation. According to one paper Democratic procedures have been sacrificed to a concerted effort towards the restoration of harmony among the great powers responsible for world peace and security. Another paper states that there is an unexpected worsening of Italy's juridical status, - a result over which De Gasperi expressed the deep concern of the whole nation. That Italy has been stripped of all the advantages she had gained by enduring the grim struggle of co-belligerency. The Communist organ blames the weakness of domestic policy for the changed attitude of the Big Three and asserts that Italy failed to meet in full the obligations to which she was committed by the terms of the armistice providing for the uprooting of Fascism. The Catholic 'Quotidiano' says that some sort of compromise has been reached at the expense of minor countries and questions the Communist thesis that the discredit into which Italy has fallen abroad is due to the slackness in carrying out the Fascist purge.

Personally, I am of the opinion that the recent shift to the Right in the Italian Cabinet has prejudiced Italy's position, particularly in the eyes of Russia, and that it will take De Gasperi all his time to overcome Soviet suspicion of his policy which they regard as being in some way tied up with that of the Vatican. The failure of Bevin and Byrnes to back Italy's claims played into soviet hands and permitted an indirect hit at the Pope. Leftist parties here which were on the point of disintegrating can now have a renewed lease of life when they convince the public that it is hopeless to expect anything from the Right. Here is a case where Italy becomes a shuttlecock in the international game.

With all best wishes for the New Year from Paula and myself,

Michael4

1 Council of Constance (1414-18), the 16th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church, held to reform and reunite the church.

2 Joseph Glanvill (1636-80), English writer, natural philosopher and clergyman.

3 Albert the Great (c1193-1280), Dominican friar, bishop, natural philosopher and theologian.

4 Handwritten insertion by MacWhite.


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