No. 5 NAI DFA ES Paris 1919

Sean T O'Ceallaigh to Cathal Brugha (Dublin)

Paris, 7 March 1919

For the Information of those concerned

A Chathail dhílis,
Cathal Shannon and [Thomas] Johnson arrived here last night on their way back from the Labour Conference at Berne and as they are due to leave here for London Sunday morning I intend availing of the opportunity to send you a brief report on my work and my impressions on my mission from the date of my arrival in Paris to date.

I arrived here late on Saturday night February 8th 1919 and in company with the `Independent' representative came straight on to this hotel - the Grand. It is probably the biggest - it is certainly one of the most important hotels in this city. I had the good fortune to secure a room and have made this the head-quarters of the Irish Mission since.

On Sunday morning I set out to visit the friend at whose house I expected to find certain papers I had sent on in advance and I am glad to say I found that the papers had been safely delivered just about two hours or so before my arrival at my friend's house.

The following day I made the acquaintance of the gentleman whom I had been given to understand was Secretary to Col. House.1 I found to my great disappointment that the gentleman to whom I had got the letter of introduction did not hold that important post but was in fact only employed as an ordinary assistant in the office of the Legal Adviser to the American Delegation. While this man was most friendly and anxious to help in every way, after investigation I found he was not in a position to be of much service personally but he was in a position to acquire information and to get into touch with one or two people who could be made use of.

After consultation with this man and after careful consideration of the information at the disposal of some of his more highly placed friends I was satisfied that the only way to approach Wilson, with any remote hope of being received or heard, was to tackle him boldly and publicly and to get for the matter all the publicity possible - especially in the U.S. Press. This I did in the manner you already know and with the result of the effort you are already aware. It may appear to you and others at home that I acted too hastily and as has already been suggested in a letter to me from home, that I 'bounced' Mr. W. To that I would reply that I am as fully convinced as a man can be that I took the right course - in fact the only course. Information which has reached me since and also all that has happened since has fully borne out this view and those here on the spot who know W. best and who are in the best position to judge the matter, fully and heartily endorse my view.

I sent that letter on Feby.11th2 - at least I delivered it myself at Pres. Ws' residence and as no acknowledgement or reply came I called again on the afternoon of 13th. What happened on that occasion has already been reported in the Independent, in which paper a copy of my letter to W. also appeared. I called later at the hotel and after some trouble saw Hoover who gave the published explanation in which he spoke of `an unfortunate misunderstanding'. He promised faithfully to investigate the matter fully and to write me later. I have never had any communication from him since though I called a few times at his hotel to remind him of his promise.

After Wilson's departure on 15th February I set about getting my letter and documents put in order for presentation to the officials and members of the Peace Conference and League of Nations. I am sending you herewith copies of the documents as presented.3 I sent copies of each per registered post to all the delegates whose names I could find - 71 in number. I had great difficulty in getting their names and addresses as there was no official list published that I could get hold of so I was obliged to spend several days going through files of newspapers to look them up. I cannot say if I got a complete list but I think I did. At least I have not yet discovered anyone who was omitted. The letters were posted on Sunday morning 23rd besides which I delivered by hand a Copy (destination[, overwrite]) addressed to the Secretary at the Foreign Office, Quai d'Orsay. They were delivered to the delegates and to 140 papers in Paris and throughout France on Monday morning and I am fully satisfied that their arrival created quite a big sensation in official and journalistic circles. Practically every journalist who called on me during the ensuing week had the same story for me - about the excitement in diplomatic quarters. All here were quite satisfied too that I had done the right thing in making the demand and they spoke in equally high praise of the dignified but firm language in which the claim was advanced. The only acknowledgement or reply I received was the letter from General Bliss of the U.S.A. Peace Delegation. For a week or ten days after I had no time for any work outside press work. I was receiving journalists and visitors of all sorts and conditions from early morning till late at night - not leaving my room except for meals. Since then I have, in the interval of doing this same work, called on a number of delegates to the Peace Conference. I left my card with the secretary of each member of the American Delegation and with the French and a number of delegates from smaller powers. I have not had the pleasure of being received by any of them so far. I called repeatedly on Col. House and have been promised by the Secretary that he would later make an appointment to see me.

In the meantime too I have been devoting as much time as I could spare to getting into touch with members of the French Parliament with a view to having our case discussed in their assembly. I have so far succeeded in inducing at least three members to take an active interest in us and I am hopeful of further success in this line in the near future. In this connection I have I am glad to say succeeded in getting at least three of the most widely read daily papers in Paris to give recently a good deal of space to an exposé of our claims in their columns. In the less known but nevertheless important Parisian and provincial press quite a surprising amount of attention has been given to us and in a number of them a synopsis of one or other of the documents I sent them - from the Dail - has been given. The cuttings I am sending over with this will demonstrate this.

I find now I will be obliged to cut short this report as our friends have just now decided to start for home by an early train in the morning. I had hoped one or both of them would have stayed here for a week or two as they could have been of infinite help to me. I put this to them both but after long consideration they now informed me they are obliged to go back.As to the real object of my mission - the securing of a hearing for Ireland's claim before the Peace Conference - or League of Nations I feel reluctantly compelled to say that my impression is that unless we can bring some overwhelming pressure to bear on Wilson - who's the only one of the American delegates who counts - or on some of the other delegations - say the Italians, or Japanese, the prospects of being heard are very slight indeed. We should be in a position to bring such pressure on the Americans owing to the difficulties that have arisen between Wilson and the Senate over the League of Nations and this opportunity must be made the most of at once. I have already myself written to Diarmuid in U.S.A. to convey this opinion of mine - my letter may not reach him however. For now{?} times of self interest and owing to squabbles that I know are proceeding in the inner councils of the Peace Cabinet I think it may yet be possible - it is only a very remote possibility - to induce one of the other groups I have mentioned to raise our case in the Council. It may even later be possible to get the French to do it but for the present I see little hope of this. All these delegations great and small are solely interested in grabbing all they can of the spoils for themselves and the stories that are going the rounds here of their internal squabbles at almost every meeting would be most amusing only the issues at stake are so important. They have no time to listen to anyone like myself who wants justice and right to prevail. However all this may change after a while particularly if the terms with Germany are once finally settled. France refuses to discuss for the moment anything but how to get the last ounce of flesh from Germany. Out of the growing dissatisfaction and discontent between them all and particularly between France and England over the German Fleet we may be able to get an opening for the presentation of our case but that is only in the womb of the future and a mere chance affair. However, I am in fairly close touch with what is happening from day to day and will lose no opportunity that may present itself to advance our cause. I am gradually getting closer and closer to the people who count here and am in hopes before long of securing a private interview with Tardieu who is next in importance to Clemenceau.

The work I have in hands is I would like to remind you of the highest importance at the moment and it cannot possibly be done to best advantage if I don't get help. It is inhuman to ask one man to carry it on all alone. I am working every day from early morning till late at night but I cannot divide myself into six parts and we would want at least six here if we had them and there would be plenty to do for all. Collins has evidently failed to get the necessary visa so an effort should be made to get a couple of people out in some other direction. I think de Valera should come here if at all possible in two or three weeks time. There will be no difficulty about `permit de sejour' i.e., if he once can get landed anywhere in France - at least I have experienced no trouble whatever in that way. The vigilance is not so great as we were given to understand. Now that the prisoners are coming home surely two or three could be spared for here as soon as the organization and the Dail are got going properly. It is now or never with the Peace Conference anyhow and no effort and no risk must be counted too great if we are to make the best use of what little chance we have of getting anything out of this assembly.

Another complaint I have to make is about the manner in which I have been left in the dark as to doings and opinions at home. My wife has written me every day and of course sent me on all messages that were given her to convey but these messages were very few and in no case was she given any instructions - so far as I know - on the more important matters of policy to be pursued towards Wilson i.e. my work was largely responsible for Creel's visit to Ireland and I heard from a reliable source - indirectly - the nature of Creel's report to headquarters on his return but I never got a hint of any kind - good bad or indifferent as to what he said at home, what line he took and whether he made any promises or was authorised to give any assurance that we were likely to be heard. Now I don't think 'tis fair that I should be absolutely ignored in such a way especially in matters which so vitally affect my work here. Except for what my wife has written I have never received a line of any kind - one post card excepted - from anyone of those who could have given me information which would have been of use to me in my work.

Now I come to the question of finance. Nothing whatever can be done here without money and plenty of it. Cost of living is terrific but that is only a minor - a very minor point. What I want is a few thousand pounds - don't be too greatly shocked by the light way I speak of it - for the purpose of smoothing a passage to the presence of the great men here and of securing the ear of the press. You can get nothing whatsoever done otherwise. They all expect it. They are in the habit of getting it and whether they are politicians or journalists or even statesmen so far as my limited experience of them goes I must say they are very frank in letting you know their point of view in the matter.

I expect Mrs. C.[hartres]4 here in about a week and of course she will be a great help.

This brief report is scribbled in great haste. I wish I had more time to devote to it. I have however had long chats with Shannon and Johnson and they are instructed to see you and give you my views fully as well as their own on the situation here.

Let me have some money as soon as you can manage it.

Kindest regards
Sean T. O'Ceallaigh

1 Col E.M. House, Woodrow Wilson's closest confidant.

2 Letter Not printed.

3 No. 4

4 Anne Vivanti.

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