No. 98 NAI DFA Ottawa Embassy File 850

Aide mémoire from John J. Hearne to Dr Oscar D. Skelton (Ottawa)

Ottawa, 22 December 1939


  1. The Irish Government's neutrality policy has produced a feeling of contentment in the Country because it provides a clear proof to all shades of nationalist opinion that independence is an established fact. That contentment has reacted on our people in the United States and has had its measure of favourable influence on the issue of the repeal of the arms embargo. A departure from the policy of neutrality, of our own doing, would bring chaos at home, trouble with the United Kingdom, and unwelcome consequences in the United States. There is no body of opinion in the country in favour of going into the war. Those who occasionally speak behind the scenes in favour of such a course are not regarded as friends of Ireland and of continued good relations with Great Britain.
  2. Experience has so far shown that, contrary to the view of some, neutrality can be maintained in practice.
  3. There has been no question of the British Forces occupying the 'Treaty ports'. The occupation of those ports would be regarded as a violation of the sovereignty of the Irish State and any attempt to do so by force would be resisted. The respect shown by Great Britain for Ireland's right to be neutral and to maintain her neutrality in practice gives added moral strength to Great Britain's stand for Poland and Finland. There are, no doubt, many who feel that the German submarine

    [page missing in original]

    But investigation has shown that there was not a single case in which the story could be verified.

  4. The Irish Government are hoping that the appointment of an Irish representative in Canada will be reciprocated very soon. They feel that, from every point of view, the early appointment of a Canadian representative in Ireland is eminently desirable.
  5. (1) In the sphere of internal politics, the Government have found it necessary to take a strong stand against the practice of the hunger-strike amongst political prisoners. The majority of the prisoners gave up the struggle at a relatively early stage, but a few persisted until their lives were in real danger. The Government then decided to release them so that they would take food. It is believed that hunger-striking in Irish prisons is now at an end.

    (2) The problem of national unity, always a major issue, is the subject of the Government's constant study and care. Mr. de Valera has again emphasised (Dec. 12th)1 his view that the use of force to secure the reintegration of the national territory would, if unsuccessful, result in throwing everything into the melting pot again. 'My Government' he said 'is as conscious of the cruel wrong of partition as any body of men, but they have the responsibility of knowing where they are going before they lead their country in that direction.'

    (3) The Government are concentrating upon the revival of the national language as one of the things essential to the restoration of our national life. They are satisfied that the lot of small nations is going to be ever more difficult if the war is followed by a close European Federation, our national distinctiveness will depend for its continuance upon the Irish language more, perhaps, than any other factor.

1 De Valera had made this point strongly, in the presence of delegates holding opposing views, at the annual Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis at the Mansion House, Dublin, on 12 December 1939.

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