No. 65 NAI DFA 241/113

Minute by Joseph P. Walshe of a meeting with Edouard Hempel

Dublin, 1 November 1939

The German Minister called to see me this morning, and I took the opportunity to speak to him about his letter of the 24th October warning us as a neutral State not to allow our citizens to travel on English or French ships. I told him that our Government would be placed in an impossible position if our citizens could not use the chief means available for them to travel between here and Great Britain. Such a position would be in complete contradiction with that accepted by him and his Government in all our conversations on Irish neutrality which took place between him and myself and between him and my Minister prior to and subsequent to the outbreak of war. I realised that his letter was based on a general instruction issued to all German Ministers in neutral countries and not one issued to him in relation to the particular difficulties (so frequently explained to him) of the Irish Government. I now wished to inform him that the sinking of ships carrying passengers between Great Britain and Ireland would provoke such an outcry in this country against Germany that the maintenance of our neutrality would become almost impossible. I felt therefore that it was not the intention of the German Government to apply this rule to the special circumstances existing between Ireland and Great Britain, and I asked him to urge upon his Government in the strongest possible fashion not to include passenger traffic between Ireland and Great Britain in their general instruction. I referred to the very bad effects created by the sinking of the 'Leinster'1 at the end of the Great War. Whatever excuse there was then, there could not possibly be any excuse for taking similar measures now. The German Minister told me he would get into touch with his Government as soon as he could, though he again emphasised how difficult it was for him to communicate with his Government at all, and he urged upon me the necessity of using our own channels of communication through our Chargé d'Affaires in Berlin in order to bring the matter with all possible speed to the attention of his Government. The German Minister quite agreed that we could not give any publicity to his letter of the 24th October even through private channels to the Companies concerned, and he further agreed that a serious situation would be created by the sinking of passenger ships between Great Britain and Ireland.

We have sent cabled instructions to our Chargé d'Affaires in Berlin to inform the German Government in the foregoing sense.

1 On 10 October 1918, the Royal Mail Steamer Leinster was hit by three torpedoes from U-123 and sank outside Dublin Bay. The official death toll was 501.

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