No. 157 UCDA P150/2183

Letter from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

London, 15 March 1938

My dear President,

I saw both Harding and Batterbee this morning, and the High Commissioner saw MacDonald for the purpose of conveying informally your instructions of yesterday evening.

The complete elimination of 'Northern Ireland' and the trade concessions intended therefor would be quite impossible. They must have a Maia to carry the Mercury and concessions of advantage to Northern Ireland form now the only element left to fill that role1.

From the reactions of Harding and Batterbee I should say that we have a chance of succeeding in your purpose by conceding the list to the United Kingdom as such. They would understand that in the new conditions certain exceptions would have to be made. The inclusion of an Article on contingent concessions to Northern Ireland would not be necessary nor do I think it could be accepted by the British without putting themselves in the position of putting on record a view - at least by implication - that Northern Ireland were here and now persecuting the minority.

I think that your talks with the Prime Minister and MacDonald have convinced them that the discrimination is real, and I believe that they will take measures very soon to put an end to it. Sean Murphy will have told you that the British are sending their formal document through the High Commissioner this evening and they expect you to make your objection and/or proposals in a formal document in return. Meanwhile I think it would be a good thing if Sean Leydon and Jenkins2 would explore the list with a view to excluding from it the items which you wish to omit.

Harding and Batterbee are becoming somewhat pessimistic about an agreement being reached. I am making due allowance for the element of bluff in this attitude, but I fear that they really apprehend serious difficulties if the European situation becomes more and more the all absorbing occupation of Ministers here.

As I already mentioned to you I am somewhat anxious about the future of the Prime Minister. Should a real war situation develop - as it will if Hitler threatens Czecho-Slovakia - the Prime Minister may have to give way to a younger man before the clamour of the 'pinks' of all parties who think a preventive war now would be the best way to stop Hitler in his headlong career.

The dangerous element in the occupation of Austria is not the occupation itself but the fact that the Germans have used 200,000 men for a task which could easily have been accomplished by 10,000. A further advance from Austria within a short time seems indicated.

You heard from the High Commissioner on the phone on Sunday that the Duce told Colonel Beck3 that Czecho-Slovakia was to be the next victim and would have her turn within a few weeks. I don't know how much importance should be attached to Secret Service reports of this kind but the facts are ominous enough.

A postponement of the Agreement - if there is going to be one - would in the circumstances be giving hostages to fortune.

The phantom of the reunification by force of these countries is never wholly out of my mind, and as we come nearer to the unknown and incalculable factors involved in a war situation I can't help feeling that the phantom might become very real.

It may be an idle fear but you will not take it amiss if I express it once more to you at this very critical hour of our history.

However much time it may take from our duties at home I believe we should go on now to the final discussion without interruption. Perhaps enough progress can be made within a few days to send you a final and acceptable document. You could then come over and sign.

I remain, My dear President,
With great respect and esteem
Yours very sincerely,
[signed] J.P. WALSHE

P.S. When coming to the end of this note I got your instruction about the document. I immediately phoned to Harding and have since seen him. The High Commissioner has also seen MacDonald. The document has been held up and the Board of Trade are expecting Mr. Leydon to discuss the list with them. Their political difficulties according to Harding will be greatly increased by the suggestion to omit Northern Ireland but we hope to win them round to your point of view.

1 'Maia' and 'Mercury' were the names given to the two components of an experimental system of piggy-back transatlantic flight (the 'Mayo Composite', after its designer Robert Mayo) whereby a modified C-Class Shorts Sunderland flying boat 'Maia' would lift the smaller 'Mercury', a Shorts S-20 floatplane, on its back to a cruising altitude. The 'Mercury', having saved its fuel in the assisted take-off, would then separate from the 'Maia' and continue on its transatlantic flight. Test flights took place in 1937 and the 'Mercury' was successfully launched in mid-air from the 'Maia' over Foynes, County Limerick, on 21 July 1938. The scheme never saw commercial operation, being superseded by improved C-Class and G-Class flying boats and superior American Boeing flying boats. In Greek mythology the nymph Maia was the eldest of the Pleiades, the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. She was the mother of Hermes, the Messenger of Zeus (Hermes' father) and the Herald of the Olympian gods. Hermes' counterpart in Roman mythology is Mercury. Mercury is also god of travellers, commerce and speed.

2 T. Gilmour Jenkins, Head of the Commercial Treaty Department, Board of Trade, London.

3 Colonel Józef Beck (1894-1944), Polish Foreign Minister (1932-39).

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