No. 99 NAI DFA Secretary's Files A20/3

Report from Leopold H. Kerney to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Madrid, 23 December 1939

Frank RYAN.

Referring to my minute of 14th November,1 Mr. de Champourcin handed to me at 11.45 p.m. on 20th December a certified copy of the sentence, and thereby proved his worth; this copy is dated 1st Dec. and also gives information up to the commutation of the death sentence on 12th November 1939. I am retaining this document here, but enclose copy2 (correcting where possible the very numerous misspellings and errors in typing) and also a slightly summarised translation made by myself.

Mr. de Champourcin says that, if we could disprove alleged proved facts, we could appeal for revision, but he believes that it may be less difficult to secure a pardon, using Falange and Serrano Suñer as the most powerful intermediaries; I will examine this question with him again. Meanwhile, if it should be true that Ryan indulged actively in propaganda against Franco during his convalescence in Ireland – and I suppose this is likely – then there is no case for appeal; if it should not be true, I would suggest that a certified declaration be made, say by the Press Information Bureau or by the Department to the effect that an examination of the daily newspapers published in Dublin between March 1937 and the date of Ryan's return to Spain shows that no activities of his were reported during that period, and that, therefore, no activities of a public nature could have taken place.

Baron de Senaller3 (see my report 7th Dec.)4 called on 21st Dec.; I gave him a letter for the Director of Prisons with which he hopes to obtain permission to send Ryan the books received from Miss Ryan; he will study the sentence to see whether, in his opinion, a case could be made for revision.

I saw the Foreign Minister at 1 p.m. on 21st Dec. and handed him a copy of the sentence; he took it saying this would be something new to show Franco; I called his attention to the fact that no crimes were charged against Ryan, that the case was a clean one and I added that others similarly circumstanced had already been released (this may or may not be true); I told him also that Ryan was by no means the 'destacado politico'5 or outstanding politician that he was represented to be.

It was necessary, for the purposes of a death sentence, to attach an exaggerated importance to Ryan's prominence in Ireland as a politician, seeing that the Nationalist spirit of justice is supposed to make a distinction between ringleaders and their misguided followers; the fact that Ryan returned to Spain made his case worse, but his great crime was his propagandist work against Franco in Ireland. An 'extremist Republican' means one thing in Ireland, and quite a different thing in Spain – deep green in one country, deep red in the other – and the minds of the Judges will have been prejudiced by the description.

The only Irish informer referred to in the accompanying document is Jane Brown.6 If I am not mistaken, Miss Jane Brown was repatriated by the Paris Legation in December 1937, having reached Paris from Barcelona via Marseilles; she left Barcelona on 8th Dec. After her return to Ireland she was in a position to curry favour with the Spanish nationalists and the declaration which she appears to have made, and which should have sealed Ryan's fate, must have been made in Ireland, as she did not return to Spain. She was rewarded by Franco with a medal – so much I know – and this medal must have been sent to her in Ireland. I do not know when Ryan returned to Spain, but presume this was prior to her departure from Barcelona. She is a trained nurse.

[signed] L.H. Kerney

1 Not printed.

2 Not printed.

3 A friend of Kerney's confidante, the Duchess of Tetuan, and known to Ms Maisie Donnelly, Kerney's secretary, de Senaller – a lawyer, formerly a lieutenant in the Tercio – knew Colonel Casado, 'auditor de guerra' in Burgos, from whom he expected to get a copy of Ryan's sentence for Kerney.

4 Not printed.

5 Literally an 'exceptional politician'.

6 Jane Brown from Enfield, Co Kildare, had been in the service of a Spanish noble family and during the civil war in Spain had lost all her belongings, including her Irish passport. With aid from British consular officials she made her way to Paris and onwards to Ireland with the assistance of the Irish Legation in Paris in December 1937.

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