No. 124 NAI DFA Secretary's Files S113

Note for file by Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Dublin, 7 February 1940

Efforts to reprieve Barnes and Richards

Events of Tuesday, February 6th

The High Commissioner kept in touch with the Dominions Office throughout the day and spoke several times with Mr. Eden. The latter had at no time given Mr. Dulanty any hope of a reprieve, though he said that he was making every effort to secure it. The High Commissioner believed that Mr. Eden was genuinely worried about the situation. I telephoned to the High Commissioner in the early forenoon to inform him that the Taoiseach would be ready to fly to London if he thought that such a step would help the British Government to accede to our request. Mr. Eden thought that no change could be brought about by the Taoiseach's journey to London. Mr. Dulanty called by arrangement at Buckingham Palace about 11 o'clock for the purpose of asking the King to intervene. The King conveyed to him, through his Private Secretary,1 that he would ask the Prime Minister to come to see him on his return from France in the afternoon to discuss the matter with him.2 The High Commissioner was kept informed hour by hour of the development in the situation here, and he conveyed to the British Government the fullest information about the growing volume of appeals from all public bodies and all sections of the population. He also gave to the Dominions Office the text of a wire received by the Taoiseach from Tom Barry,3 to the effect that if a delay of four days were granted, he would go to the Home Secretary in London and produce evidence to prove that the condemned men were not guilty of the Coventry outrage. Mr. Sowby, the Warden of St. Columba's College, remained with us in the Department for the four hours phoning to influential people in England asking for their intercession. At his request, the Archbishop of Canterbury called on the Prime Minister at 5.30, and other influential people – amongst them the Dean of Westminster, Lord Sankey, and the Archbishop of York, intervened. The Taoiseach received Mr. Sowby at the end of his visit to the Department and thanked him for his zealous efforts, and expressed the view to Mr. Sowby that the intervention of the Archbishop of Canterbury was now the only hope of success. Mr. Sowby showed himself a true friend of peace and good relations with Great Britain, and his extraordinary anxiety and effective zeal in that cause deserve the greatest possible gratitude from the Government. The High Commissioner saw Cardinal Hinsley and asked him to use his good offices. The Cardinal wrote a letter to Mr. Chamberlain. Sir John Squire, the Literary Editor of the 'Times' and of the 'Statesman', got several of London's most prominent journalists to join with him in urging on the British Government the need of adopting a favourable attitude.

Towards 7 o'clock in the evening the High Commissioner saw Mr. Chamberlain4 and received from him a message to the Taoiseach regretting that he had no choice in the matter, as considerations of overwhelming force prevented any alteration of the Government's decision not to grant a reprieve. He hoped, however, that good relations between the two countries would not be interrupted, or at least that they would not be interrupted for more than a short time. About 10 o'clock Mr. Antrobus, Secretary of the British Legation, phoned me a similar message for the Taoiseach from the Prime Minister. This message did not refer to any disturbance of good relations. On Monday evening the following message had been sent by Mr. Eden for the Taoiseach, through the Secretary of the British Legation:-

'Mr. de Valera's letter has been fully and sympathetically considered, and we entirely appreciate the spirit in which it was written. Nevertheless, after the fullest examination of all the facts and circumstances of the case, I regret to have to inform him that the conclusion has been reached that the law must be allowed to take its course.'

A letter confirming this message was received yesterday morning. The two men were executed at 9.15 this morning.

[initialled] J.P.W.

1 Alexander Hardinge (1894-1960), 2nd Baron Hardinge of Penshurst.

2 See No. 123.

3 Thomas Barry (1897-1980), IRA Flying Column leader in Cork during the Irish War of Independence.

4 See No. 123.

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