No. 34 NAI DFA 305/16

Letter from Joseph P. Walshe to all missions concerning deserters from the Irish Defence Forces

Dublin, 14 November 1945

Last August, the Government made an Order, known as Emergency Powers (No. 362) Order, 1945, under which deserters from the Defence Forces who had been absent for more than 180 days were deemed to be dismissed from the Defence Forces; forfeited their right to any outstanding balance of army pay and allowances; and were disqualified for seven years from holding any post remunerated out of public funds, or any post in the employment of a board or company set up by Statute. The Order provided, in addition, that dismissal from the Army in virtue of the Order would not operate as a discharge for the purposes of the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1945.

This Order was the subject of an annulment motion in the Dáil on the 18th October, which was lost on a division. In connection with this motion, the British news agency, the Exchange Telegraph, sent out a despatch from London which seems to have been published extensively in foreign newspapers. The text of the despatch as published in the 'Neue Zuericher Zeitung' of the 19th October, 1945, is enclosed.1

It would be difficult to find a better example than this despatch of the manner in which British news agencies doctor-up Irish news for foreign consumption. You should read the debate on the annulment motion in the Dáil Debates, Volume 98, No. 2 (columns 396 - 442), and the leading article in the 'Irish Press' of the 5th November. You will see from these that the Exchange Telegraph message is nothing less than a flagrant and barefaced distortion. It carefully glosses over the fact that the men to whom the Order applies are deserters from the Irish Defence Forces and tries to make it appear that the purpose of the Order is to penalize men, not for desertion from the Irish Army, but for joining the British Forces. It mentions the Opposition's attack on the Order, but makes no reference to the Minister's reply. It ignores the Minister's point that the Order reduces the existing statutory penalties for desertion. Though the Order was obviously a Department of Defence matter and was defended in the Dáil by the Minister for Defence, the Taoiseach's name is brought into the report quite unnecessarily in order to help out the effort to give a mere routine measure of Army administration the character of an act of political vengeance against Irishmen who served in the British forces. The whole report simply reeks of prejudice and dishonesty.

So far as our observation goes, this is the first newspaper report of any consequence which has appeared in the European newspapers with reference to this country within the last two months. During those two months, much has been happening here. Among other things which might possibly have been of more interest to European readers than Emergency Powers (No. 362) Order, is the fact that practically every week during the last two months cargoes of foodstuffs have left our shores for the relief of distress on the Continent, many of them in Irish vessels. So far as we have been able to trace, not one word about these relief shipments was sent out by any British agency to its European subscribers.

You should make the widest possible use of the foregoing instance to illustrate the argument that Irish news coming from British sources is tainted; that papers who print it simply make themselves instruments of anti-Irish propaganda, and that the development of a proper understanding between this country and the country to which you are accredited is made very difficult by the reliance of the local papers on British sources for news about this country.

1 Not printed.

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