No. 50 NAI DT S11445/1

Memorandum by the Department of the Taoiseach
'Measures taken to secure the public safety and the preservation of the State (a) prior to, (b) at the outset of, and (c) at various stages during the Emergency, 1940-45'

Dublin, 8 December 1945

  • Measures taken prior to the Emergency.
    On the 7th September, 1938, approximately one year before the outbreak of war, the Government established a Committee of Heads of Departments, under the chairmanship of the Taoiseach, to act as a general planning, co-ordinating and supervising body and to consider the measures which it would be necessary to take in preparation of the eventuality of a European war.1 The Committee consisted of the secretaries of the following Departments:- Agriculture, Defence, External Affairs, Finance, Industry and Commerce, Justice, and Taoiseach's Department. At the same time, a legislation committee consisting of representatives of the Attorney General's Department, the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Justice was set up to consider and draft whatever legislative measures might be necessary to deal with a war situation.

    It was regarded as the duty of the Committee of Heads of Departments to prepare general proposals as to the matters which would require attention, the relative priority to be given to those matters and the assignment of them for attention to the various Departments. The Committee had no executive functions. Its last meeting was held on the 13th April, 1939.

    The Committee prepared, for approval by the Government, drafts on an Emergency Powers Bill, an Emergency Powers Order and an Amendment to the Constitution Bill. Among the other important subjects discussed were the following:- increased food production, supply of essential commodities, safeguarding of national treasures, postal and telegraph censorship, immigration, etc., Defence Forces and air raid precautions.

  • Measures taken at the outset of the Emergency
    On the 1st September 1939, the date of the outbreak of war, the Taoiseach, pursuant to Standing Order No. 16 of Dáil Éireann, requested the Ceann Comhairle to summon the Dáil to meet on the following day to consider such measures as might be proposed by the Government for protecting the interests of the State in any emergency arising from the international situation. When the Dáil met on the 2nd September, 1939, the Emergency Powers Bill and the First Amendment of the Constitution Bill, which had already been approved by the Government, were introduced. The latter Bill having passed through all its stage[s] in the Dáil and Seanad, a resolution pursuant to Article 28.3.3o of the Constitution, as then amended, was passed by both Houses declaring that a national emergency existed affecting the vital interests of the State. The remaining stages of the Emergency Powers Bill were then disposed of in the Dáil and Seanad. Both the Bills became law on the 2nd September, 1939, as a result of resolutions passed in the Seanad, pursuant to Article 25.2.2o of the Constitution, providing for early signature of the President. On the 2nd September 1939, also, Emergency Powers Order, 1939, was made by the Government.
  • Measures taken at various stages during the Emergency
  1. Cabinet Committee on Emergency Problems
    This Committee was set up by the Taoiseach in May, 1940, to keep under review questions of defence and security and economic problems arising out of the emergency. It consisted for the first few months of the Ministers for Supplies2 and Co-ordination of Defensive Measures,3 in addition to the Taoiseach. On the 1st July, 1940, the Minister for Finance4 was added as a member. The first meeting of the Committee was held on the 16th May, 1940, and from then until 22nd March, 1943, regular meetings were held. The Committee did not meet after the latter date.
    • The Committee considered approximately one hundred separate problems of which the following were the most important -

    • Protection of works of art, documents, etc.

    • Construction Corps

    • Problems likely to arise in the event of attack

    • Communal feeding

    • Compensation for personal injuries

    • Meetings of Government in an Emergency and continuity of Government

    • Emergency Scientific Research Bureau

    • Maintenance, etc., of Post Office services in emergency

    • Hospital problems

    • Compulsory insurance against war risks

    • Censorship problems

    • Safeguarding of water, gas and electricity services

    • Security and operation of industrial plants

    • Maintenance and safeguarding of railway communications

    • Refugees from Great Britain

    • Control of shipping

    • Financing of defence

  2. Cabinet Committee on Economic Planning
    The Government on the 24th November, 1942, decided that a Cabinet Committee on Economic Planning should be set up consisting of the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Industry and Commerce and Supplies, with other Ministers added to the Committee from time to time according as the particular subjects under discussion might require. The object of this Committee was to keep under observation the progress made by Departments in formulating proposals for post-war activities and make suggestions as to steps which might be taken to expedite planning and the carrying out of preparatory work in the existing conditions.

    Up to July, 1944, the Committee gave detailed consideration to a large number of economic and developmental activities. By that time, it became apparent that the whole post-war field of development had been surveyed and that all major schemes of development had been put under way. The Committee decided accordingly that, in future, they would aim at avoiding the consideration of matters of detail and endeavour to concentrate on broadly reviewing the progress of Departments in the advancement of their plans, in the preparation of necessary legislation and generally in bringing their preparatory measures to the most advanced stage practicable in existing circumstances. On the 4th April, 1945, the Government decided that the Committee should be enlarged to include all the members of the Government, on the understanding that the meetings of the Committee would not be Government meetings and that normally no Government or Cabinet matters would be considered.

  3. Continuity of functions of the Government
    In order to provide against the possibility that, in the event of a grave emergency, the members of the Government might be unable to carry out their functions, the Government, on the 16th July, 1940, made Emergency Powers (No. 38) Order, 1940, copy of which is attached (Appendix 1).5 This Order provided for the continued performance of the duties of the Taoiseach, for the removal of a person from the Government if that person should be unable to fulfil his functions owing to the emergency and for the appointment from the membership of the Dáil or Seanad of a successor to such person. It also provided for the authentication of instruments in writing made by the Government. In addition, the Government approved the terms of a further order providing for the appointment of persons not members of the Dáil or Seanad, for the nomination of such member of the Government by the Tánaiste and for the assignment of the Department of Finance to a member of the Government not a member of Dáil Eireann. This latter order, a copy of which is also attached (Appendix 2), was not actually made: it was intended that it should come into effect should events become so serious that the provisions of Emergency Powers (No. 38) Order, 1940, would not be adequate to ensure the continued functioning of the Government.

    Emergency Powers (No. 38) Order, 1940, also provided that if the Tánaiste should be unable to perform the functions of the Taoiseach, such functions might be performed, during the inability of the Tánaiste, by such member of the Government as was to be selected for that purpose in accordance with directions previously given by the Government. Directions under the Order were given by the Government on the 16th July, 1940 and the 10th March, 1944.

    It had been anticipated that it might become necessary for the Government, in the event of a sudden and grave emergency, to leave the capital. The question of the transport in such a contingency of the members of the Government together with certain Civil Service personnel who had been selected to accompany them was discussed with the Gárda authorities. The arrangements decided upon are set out in appendices 3 and 4. The question of alternative accommodation for the Government outside Dublin was also taken up with the Office of Public Works and a number of premises were suggested, though not actually inspected. The necessity for taking a final decision on this question became less urgent as the theatre of war moved further from this country and the matter was eventually dropped.

    For the first meeting of the Government which would require to be held in the event of an attack on this country, an emergency Agenda was prepared and held in readiness. The items included were the following:-


  1. Broadcast to the people by the Taoiseach,
  2. Issue of instructions to the people,
  3. " " " " local bodies and their staff,
  4. " " " " civil servants,
  5. Request for aid against invader,
  6. Summoning of Dáil and Seanad - Place and date of meeting.


  1. Emergency Powers (No. 38) Order, 1940 (Amendment) Order
  2. Directions by Taoiseach bringing Emergency Powers (No. 48) Order, 1940 into force (Regional Commissioners)
  3. Defence Forces (Declaration of Active Service) Order
  4. Directions by Taoiseach bringing Emergency Powers (No. 65) Order, 1941 into force (Military Courts)
  5. Emergency Powers (Financial transactions with United Kingdom) Order
  6. Emergency Powers (Post Office Savings Bank and Savings Certificates) Order
  7. Directions by Taoiseach bringing Emergency Powers (No. 85) Order, 1941 into force (General Officer commanding the Forces)
  8. Emergency Powers (Internment and Discipline of Prisoners of War) Order
  9. Emergency Powers (Offences in relation to Prisoners of War) Order
  10. Emergency Powers (Visiting Forces) Order.

The documents, stationery and equipment which could have formed the skeleton of a cabinet secretariat, if it had been decided to leave Dublin, were stored in cases in the Department of the Taoiseach and were available for removal at short notice. This material included, besides ordinary office stationery and typewriters, documents relevant to the Government Agenda, important Emergency Powers Orders and Acts and various memoranda relating to matters connected with the emergency. Three complete sets of the material were kept in separate cases; it had been intended to transport them with the Civil Service personnel selected to accompany the Government.

It was realised that it might not be practicable to notify immediately, in the normal way, those concerned with the orders and directions referred to in the Government Agenda above that the requisite steps had been taken to give them full force and effect. To ensure, therefore, that there would be no delay in any measures necessary for the purpose of securing the public safety and the preservation of the State, all Departments and individual officers of the Civil Service and all members of the Gárda Síochána and officials of local authorities who were concerned with the operation of the orders, etc., referred to, were instructed to act, in the event of an attack being made on this country of such a character that it could not be regarded as an isolated occurrence and that it must be assumed that general hostilities would result in resistance to the attack, on the basis that the necessary steps had been taken and that the orders had full force and effect. The necessary instructions to enable this to be done were issued in advance by the Departments concerned. Officers of the Civil Service, members of the Gárda Síochána and officials of local authorities to whom such instructions were issued were warned that, before assuming without notification that the orders were in force, they should satisfy themselves that the circumstances were such as to warrant the belief that general hostilities would result in resistance to the attack. Members of the Gárda Síochána were instructed to seek confirmation on this belief by getting in touch through the appropriate channels with Gárda Headquarters, provided that it was practicable to do so without delay and Civil Servants (other than those serving at the headquarter offices of their Department) and officials of local authorities were similarly instructed to get in touch with their Regional Commissioners, through their County Commissioners. If such communication were not practicable, they were directed to make an effort to communicate with the local officer commanding the Defence Forces who would probably be in a position to advise as to the situation. In the case of the Department of Defence, it was decided that that Department should make its own arrangements as to the time and manner in which the various military commands should be notified that they should proceed on the basis that the orders had been brought into operation.

Instructions to the People
On the 12th December, 1940, the Cabinet Committee on Emergency Problems decided that a complete draft of a broadcast to be delivered by the Taoiseach in the event of an attack being made on this country should be prepared and submitted to them. Before the draft was prepared, however, the Department of Defence suggested, as one of the matters in regard to which immediate action would have to be taken by the Government in the event of an outbreak of hostilities, the issue of a proclamation on the situation setting out the relations of the civil population with the Defence Forces, with allies (if any) and with the enemy, the degree of resistance to be offered and the general line of behaviour to be followed. Pending the receipt of the proclamation in the Department of the Taoiseach, the preparation of the Taoiseach's broadcast was deferred.

On the 3rd February, 1941, the Committee decided that material should be prepared for inclusion in the broadcast setting out for the information of the public the main principles of international law relating to the respective rights and duties of invading forces and civilians in occupied territory. The Committee subsequently suggested that the material should be made available, in the form of a memorandum, to Bishops and other persons in a position to give guidance to the public in the event of attack, or, alternatively, that it should be published as a leaflet in anticipation of a possible attack. Consideration of these suggestions was deferred pending the submission of the material to the Committee.

The matter was considered by the Government on the 25th February, 1941, when it was decided that the draft directions should be completed immediately and submitted to them.6 It was also decided that the directions should include a statement as to the steps which civilians were entitled to take under international law, in resistance to an armed force. In pursuance of this decision, a full statement on the main principles of international law relating to the respective rights and duties of invading forces and civilians in occupied territory was submitted by the Department of External Affairs to the Government (Appendix 5).

Draft instructions were submitted by the Department of Defence to the Government for consideration in May, 1941. These were approved by the Government and it was decided that their issue as official Instructions should be made only in the event of a major emergency. It was also decided that the Department of Defence should arrange for the preparation of a newspaper article or articles based on the Instructions to be published unofficially after approval by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Defence. The Government agreed in principle that more detailed information should be made available for persons in authority and in a position to give guidance to the civil population. A copy of the Instructions submitted by the Department of Defence is attached (Appendix 6).

A draft newspaper article was accordingly prepared by the Director of the Government Information Bureau7 towards the end of 1941 (copy attached - Appendix 7). The matter was left in abeyance for some time and in September, 1942, the Minister for Defence expressed the opinion that it would be doubtful whether anything published at the time would receive from the civilian population the attention it merited or that it would be remembered by them if the occasion for its application should arise. He suggested, however, that if it should be decided to inform the civilian population, in advance, of what its position would be in the event of the involvement of this country in war, the most suitable time for publication of the appropriate notice would be when the Bill providing for the commandeering of civilian labour became law. The position of the civilian population would, he stated, on the enactment of that Bill, be fully cleared up. On that basis, the Minister for Defence had prepared a draft notice to be published by the Department of the Taoiseach (Appendix 8). It outlined the provisions of the Bill regarding the commandeering of labour and embodied appropriate passages from the memorandum issued for the guidance of the Gárda Síochána and Local Security Force. It was intended, in fact, to substitute the 'Instructions to the Population in the event of Invasion' which had already been approved by the Government and which it was tentatively proposed to publish or broadcast should invasion occur or appear imminent. No further action was taken in this matter: in any case, by September, 1942, any immediate danger of invasion seemed to have passed.

Although no draft of a broadcast to be delivered by the Taoiseach was actually prepared,8 it had been intended to include in it the following matters:-

  • Protest against attack.
  • Notification that allied assistance had been sought or obtained.
  • Points from 'Instructions to the Population in the event of Invasion' (if not dealt with on the lines referred to above).
  • Reference to the various orders and directions which the Government had intended to make. These are set out in the Government Agenda above. As regards the bringing into force of the order dealing with Regional Commissioners, a draft paragraph for inclusion in the broadcast had been prepared in the Department of Supplies (copy attached - Appendix 9).
  • Attitude to be taken by Civil Servants and by local bodies and their staffs. There had been some discussion as to whether this matter should be covered by the issue of instructions in advance of an emergency. Actually, no final decision was taken.

1 See DIFP V, No. 215.

2 Seán Lemass.

3 Frank Aiken.

4 Seán T. O'Kelly.

5 None of the appendices to this document has been printed.

6 See DIFP VI, No. 409.

7 Frank Gallagher.

8 However, see DIFP VI, No. 409.

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