No. 123 NAI DFA Secretary's Files S113

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 11) (Secret)

London, 6 February 1940

I saw the Prime Minister on his return from France this evening.

He was aware that I had had many conversations with Mr. Eden about Barnes and Richards and he had learned from Mr. Eden and from Sir John Simon that Mr. de Valera had said he would fly over from Dublin to London if it would have been of any avail.

I made no apology for appealing to him even at the eleventh hour to reverse the decision, the ill consequences of which would be so serious to both England and Ireland.

Mr. Chamberlain broke in and said that I need not go over the grounds that have already been covered. He felt sure he knew the arguments both for and against the suggested reprieve.

There was I suggested an aspect of the matter which was of great importance and had developed with rapidity in the last few days and that was the fact that the feeling of grave apprehension now embraced every section of opinion in Ireland. I referred to the Irish Times leader, part of which Mr. Walshe had given me over the telephone, and also the Evening Mail. I told him of the action of the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, the Chief Rabbi, the large number of publicly elected representative bodies. All this on the Irish side. I then referred to the Manchester Guardian leader, to the appeal signed by H.W. Nevinson,1 Professor Haldane,2 D. N. Pritt3 and others. I mentioned that Cardinal Hinsley4 who had spoken in emphatic terms against the I.R.A. was at that moment writing a personal note to him, Mr. Chamberlain. I further told him that just before leaving to see him there came into my office Sir John Squire,5 one of the greatest if not the greatest of the living English poets, to ask me whether there was anything he could do to prevent this awful calamity.

Mr. Chamberlain said he thought he was aware of all this. 'Certainly I recognise' he said 'that on this matter Ireland is speaking as one, which only increases our difficulties'. He said I must assure Mr. de Valera that they were almost as much worried about these sentences as he was. He thought there was malign fate opposing the desire for good relations between the two countries. The Irish Government certainly did not want this dreadful situation nor did they. He was sorry for Mr. de Valera and he was also rather sorry for himself. After going into some details of the horrors of the crime – mentioning for example that the young woman who was shortly to be married was so mutilated that she could only be identified by an engagement ring and part of a shoe – he mentioned that only the alertness of the police prevented many more lives being lost. There had now been hundreds of explosions, over ninety injuries and seven deaths. It was clearly the duty of any Government to protect the lives of its citizens but would I make clear to Mr. de Valera that they had not come to this decision lightly. They had taken the very unusual course of having the matter discussed at two meetings of the Cabinet, one of which was summoned to consider this and no other business. In addition there had been numerous conversations between individual Ministers. He, and he felt sure, his colleagues also would have been glad if they could have seen a way out but he felt that there would have been such a wave of indignation throughout England that they had no choice but to refuse a reprieve. Probably the relations between the two countries would suffer some deterioration. He hoped that might not be so and he hoped further that it would be only temporary. He begged me again to let Mr. de Valera know of his concern and to say that he was as deeply impressed as ever with the importance of improving Irish relations.

I said that was not the occasion for any contentious talk but he would remember that all through the 1938 conversations Mr. de Valera made it clear that so long as the cancer of the Northern trouble remained in our body politic there could be no immunity for either side from dangerous political conditions. Mr. Chamberlain, who looked tired after his long journey, said that he would have to talk about that when he was less exhausted.

[signed] J.W. Dulanty

1 Henry W. Nevinson (1856-1941), journalist, author and social activist.

2 Professor J.B.S. 'Jack' Haldane (1892-1964), a British geneticist; a Marxist and member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

3 Denis N. Pritt KC (1887-1972), British Labour MP for Hammersmith North.

4 Arthur Hinsley (1865-1943), Catholic Archbishop of Westminster (1935-43).

5 Sir John Collings Squire (1884-1958), editor and poet.

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