No. 329 NAI DFA 19/97

Extracts from a memorandum by Leopold H. Kerney on the organisation and
activities of the Irish Legation, Madrid

Madrid, 27 March 1936


31st. March, 1936

I arrived in Madrid on 5th August, 1935, and presented my CREDENTIALS on 3rd September.


I sought and secured suitable premises for the housing of the Legation. A furnished flat was rented for this purpose as from 1st September. It is in our power to terminate the lease at any time by giving one month's notice, but the owner cannot dispossess us so long as we pay the monthly rent punctually. No structural alterations were necessary, and practically no furniture.

[matter omitted]


The trade agreement in force with Spain signed on 1st April, 1935, is valid till 31st March, 1936. When I entered on my duties in Madrid I ascertained that Irish exporters had to submit to a delay of 4 months in obtaining payment for their exports to Spain. Persistent efforts were made to induce the Spanish authorities to provide sterling currency in payment of these arrears, but Spain's heavy adverse balance of payments made an improvement in this respect impossible and the delay of 4 months steadily increased to 5, 6, 7, and now 8 months and more. I made it my business, first of all, to prove to the Spanish Government that their statistics, which showed the balance of trade with Ireland to be in Ireland's favour, were unreliable; I took, as a reliable and acceptable basis of comparison, our import figures and Spain's import figures, and proved that the balance of trade was in Spain's favour; I used the argument that we, consequently, had it in our power, by unilateral action, to ensure prompt payment for our exports by blocking Spanish credits in Ireland; proceeding on these lines I urged the Spanish Government to agree to the principle of a Clearing Agreement. As you know, I have frequently drawn your attention to the over-valuation of the peseta, to the possibility of the exchange value of the peseta being readjusted and to the losses which might result to Irish exporters if the latter were still to hold outstanding credits in Spain at the time of any such readjustment.

[matter omitted]

If it should be impossible, in the limited time at our disposal, to negotiate a more satisfactory trade agreement with Spain, this will be due in the first place to the fact that earlier action was not taken in the above matters.

[matter omitted]


[matter omitted]

I succeeded in having Irish Nuns in Spain exempted from the necessity of taking out 'Professional Identity Cards'; as teachers, they were under the necessity of obtaining such cards. My intervention resulted in a decision being taken by the Spanish Government exempting Irish citizens, members of religious communities in Spain, from submitting themselves to the prescriptions of the decree relating to 'professional identity cards', on the sole condition that the religious nature of these communities is duly established.

With the approach of the general election (16th February, 1936) the necessity for obtaining special police protection for the Loreto Convent in Madrid arose and subsequent conditions made it necessary to obtain increased protection. I sent reports as to my action in this direction on 13th February, 18th February, 21st February, 26th February, and 13th March.1 As a direct consequence of my action about 17 armed policemen were put on duty there, night and day, when the position was most threatening; at present, the number is about 7 or 8. I also reported on 26th February my intervention with the Minister for State with a view to the Loreto Convents in Seville being properly protected, and on 14th March how this intervention had been successful.2

[matter omitted]


I have attended various receptions given by my colleagues in the Diplomatic Corps and by Spanish friends, as well as a dinner given by the President of the Republic, a luncheon of the American Club and another of the Foreign Press Correspondents' Association.


The whole work of the Legation devolves upon myself. The Secretary for whom provision was made in the estimates has not been appointed. This is the only Legation in Madrid without a Secretary. Consequently, the organisation of the work in every detail, the keeping of official accounts etc. are my personal and constant care.

It takes me some time every morning to read through 4 Spanish newspapers, which I cannot get before 9 a.m. The 3 Irish newspapers usually arrive at 11.30 a.m. The official 'Gaceta de Madrid' which has to be carefully examined, and of which I have occasionally to translate extracts, is usually delivered in the afternoon, as also 'La Journée Politique' which gives me a summary of the day's news from all the daily papers and also at times items of news censored in the press. I read a couple of evening newspapers, which usually reach me at 8.30 or 9 p.m. I have to peruse various official publications, parliamentary debates, trade statistics etc.

Routine correspondence occupies much of my time. I generally prepare my reports at night. The Legation has received over 500 letters and has sent out over 700 during the period under review. Cables received from and sent to the Department are decoded and coded, respectively, by myself.

I receive occasional visits from Irish people and others. I have frequently to call at the Ministry for State and have also paid many visits to the Currency Control Bureau.


I have not seen any trace of unfriendly criticism of Ireland in the Spanish press; it happens frequently enough when chatting with colleagues or others at social functions that information is sought as to the position in Ireland and our relations with other countries. Curiosity is sometimes manifested as to the relations between this Legation and the British Embassy; I always make it clear that these relations are correct and even friendly, but that there is absolutely no connection of any kind between the Legation and the Embassy. The Duchess of Tetuan, who is of value because she is able and willing to make something of the truth known in a discreet and indirect way in the circles which she frequents, was at a luncheon party recently at the British Embassy; the wife of the Ambassador was questioned by some of her friends there as to their dealings with us; the Duchess reported to me that Lady Chilton said that these were quite normal, that they were on quite friendly terms with us and that it was perfectly natural for Ireland to have her own Legation here.

It is my intention to seek to establish friendly contacts with the owners or editors of Madrid newspapers, but, apart from the fact that the Legation has not so far been in a position to do any entertaining, I have to feel my way and, moreover, I hesitate to undertake more work than I have to cope with at present, because I believe my health would suffer thereby.

So far, I believe that a friendly atmosphere has been created, both by Mrs. Kerney and myself, in official and other circles.


I made all necessary arrangements for a Mass on this occasion and for a subsequent reception at the Legation of members of the Irish Colony, of whom there would appear to be about 70 or so, practically all governesses or teachers. It was the first opportunity they had of coming together, many of them living hitherto in an isolated way and unknown to each other.

Arising out of the engagement of this day of an orchestra from a high-class Café in Madrid, I was able to make arrangements to have Irish music played regularly at this Café which is frequented by lovers of music.

[signed] L.H. Kerney
Aire Lán-Chómhachtach

1 These reports have not been printed.

2 These reports have not been printed.

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