No. 51 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/8

Letter from Michael MacWhite to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(Personal and Confidential)

Rome, 9 December 1945

Dear Joe,
The Cabinet crisis which has lasted almost all the time Parri1 has been in office is on the point of a momentary solution. For over a fortnight now De Gasperi,2 the Foreign Minister and leader of the Christian Democrats, has been working against many difficulties to form a Cabinet with representatives of all the six parties of the Committee of National Liberation and last minute accounts say he has succeeded. Profound divisions separate each of the six parties from one another. All alike describe themselves as Democrats but none can agree on a definition of the term. The Communists notoriously practice methods which differ very little from those employed by Fascist totalitarians. The twenty two daily papers published in Rome only add to the political confusion.

In the new De Gasperi Cabinet, although the names have not yet been announced, it is unlikely there will be any considerable change from that over which Parri presided. A fight has been raging for the post of Minister of the Interior which is by far the most important as he will control the Police, the Prefects, the Mayors and local justices. If a Socialist is appointed to it which is probable many of his political opponents will draw the conclusion that the independence of the magistrature will be undermined and that the purge of Fascists in and outside the Government, instead of being slowed down as the parties of the right would wish, will be intensified. It is no wonder that the public, outside of party followers, are growing weary of political problems. They have other things to think about. Many of them don't know when or where they are going to get the next meal.

Nearly every day brings fresh accounts of Goods trains and Convoys being attacked by organised groups of armed men. A few days ago within ten miles of Naples a train consisting of a dozen waggons of foodstuffs on pulling up at a station was attacked by a small army of 95 persons and emptied in a jiffy. Frequently, the Railway workers are found to be in league with the bandits. Recently, a station master who was hauled before the Court said that he and his family would have starved if it were not for a couple of railway porters who took pity on them. One can understand those who steal to appease their hunger but the real criminals are those who steal to exploit the hungry. Bad as conditions are here they seem to be worse in some parts of Germany where intense cold adds to the havoc caused by under-nourishment and concomitant disease. The Nuncio tells me that conditions in the Italian concentration camps are also very bad. The food ration is meagre and there are, in many instances, not enough blankets to go round.

It will interest you to know that Berardis3 has a chance of a new post. In order to get rid of his daily importunities the Secretary General suggested that he be sent to Columbia or Bolivia where he would be forgotten but he objects to premature burial. His hopes of help from Volpi4 have not disappeared although the latter is in a Swiss clinic, the shadow of his former self. He would have to stand trial were he to be returned to Italy. His other friend, Bastianini,5 on whom he counted so much at one time, is reported to be living in extreme poverty in the neighbourhood of Fribourg. He is said to be putting the finishing touches on a life of St. Francis of Assisi. Alfieri6 is in a tuberculosis sanatorium near Davos.

Babuscio Rizzo7 has asked me on behalf of the Foreign Minister if it would not be possible for us to come to an arrangement by which they would put lire at my disposal for running this Legation and we put sterling at his disposal for financing his Mission at a rate of exchange to be agreed upon. Failing this, to give the Italian Legation a credit of about 550 pounds sterling monthly. A number of countries including the USA, the URSS, Poland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and some others have already made arrangements with Italy to this effect. I enclose you herewith a translation of Babuscio's letter.8 For obvious reasons it was not sent as an official note. I would suggest that it be considered as urgently as possible. Owing to the lack of foreign currency a number of Italian diplomatic appointments are held up. As we cannot form any estimate of the real value of the lire at present the moment seems to me to be inopportune to fix a rate of exchange but I would strongly recommend that the sum required for the upkeep of the Italian Legation be advanced, in one form or another, to cover a period of months until the question could be further examined in connection with the resumption of Italian trade with foreign countries.

Paula9 joins with me in wishing you the best for Christmas and the New Year. We have been keeping well since our return having built up a wall of resistance to colds and infirmities while in Ireland.

Ever yours sincerely,

1 Ferrucio Parri (1890-1981), Prime Minister of Italy (June-December 1945).

2 Alcide de Gasperi (1881-1954), Prime Minister of Italy (1945-53).

3 Vincenzo Berardis (d. 1954), Italian Minister to Ireland (1938-44).

4 Count Giuseppe Volpi (1877-1947), Italian businessman and Fascist politician.

5 Giuseppe Bastianini (1899-1961), Italian Ambassador to Britain (1939-40), Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1943).

6 Edoardo 'Dino' Alfieri (1886-1966), Italian ambassador to Germany (1939-43).

7 Francesco Babuscio Rizzo (1897-1983), Counsellor, Italian embassy to the Holy See (1939-43 and 1943-6), Italian Minister to Ireland (1946-9).

8 Not printed.

9 Paula MacWhite (née Gruttner) (1882-1958), wife of Michael MacWhite.

10 The section in italics is a handwritten insertion.

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO