No. 335 NAI DFA 5/244

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe, for Eamon de Valera, on the neutrality of
Saorstát Éireann and the Italo-Abyssinian conflict

Dublin, 12 May 1936

The Neutrality of Saorstát Éireann and the Italian Government

Mr. Seán MacBride's Statement

At the Mansion House debate on the 4th April Mr. Seán MacBride1 made the following statement:-

'There can be no neutrality for Ireland under any agreement which binds Ireland in any way to the British Empire. The attitude of the Free State Government in recent months in trying to tell the people that the Twenty-six Counties would not be committed to war without the consent of the people is ridiculous. The British occupy various strategical positions along our coast and under the Treaty they are entitled to demand any facilities which they may require in the event of war. It is ridiculous to pretend that any neutrality under such conditions can exist. Incidentally, I would like to say that I believe that the Italian Government made it very plain to Mr. de Valera that in the event of war Ireland would not be looked upon as neutral. I think this fact has been deliberately withheld from the knowledge of the Irish people.'

A few days later (8th April) Signor Lodi-Fé, Italian Consul General, phoned and asked me if I knew anything about Mr. Seán MacBride's statement. He suggested that, as the statement was untrue, it might be a case for issuing a formal denial. I told him that the matter had not been considered, and that in any case it was not clear that it would be worth while taking any notice of Mr. MacBride's statement.

In a letter to the 'Irish Press' on April 6th Mr. P. Smith, T.D.,2 challenged Mr. MacBride to say when and where the Italian Government intimated to Mr. de Valera that in the event of war Ireland would not be looked upon as neutral. Mr. MacBride, replying to Deputy Smith's challenge, suggested in a letter to the 'Irish Press' on the 8th April that Mr. Smith should address his enquiry to Mr. de Valera on his return.

I spoke to Signor Lodi-Fé again this morning about this matter, and I told him that you would probably use an early opportunity of stating in public that you had not at any time received such an intimation from the Italian Government. Signor Lodi-Fé said he hoped you would do so.

[initialled] J.P.W.3

1 Seán MacBride (1904-1988), Chief-of-Staff of the IRA (1936), founded Clann na Poblachta (1946), Minister for External Affairs (1948-51).

2 Patrick Smith (1901-1982), founder member of Fianna Fáil, Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan, Minister for Agriculture (1947-48), Minister for Local Government (1951-54 and 1957) when he was also Minister for Social Welfare, Minister for Agriculture (1959-64).

3 Marginal note: 'A/Secy showed this note to the President, S.G.M.'.

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