No. 165 UCDA P150/2571

Memorandum from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

London, 1 May 1940

Discussions between United Kingdom and Éire Ministers

The attached report1 of the first general meeting held yesterday evening, April 30th, will show the general attitude of the British in regard to trade concessions. Beyond Eden's remark about the fight being one for the freedom of the whole world and the reference in Hudson's 2 statement to trans-shipment there was nothing that could be said to relate to our neutrality. The atmosphere at the lunch in the Savoy and at the meeting in the Dominions Office was extremely friendly. I understand that the same is generally true of the meeting between our Ministers and the individual British Ministers at which special subjects are being discussed. The going is bound to be hard. They appear to be less keen to buy food than any other commodity. They could buy iron, copper, timber, etc. and almost at any price we wished to put on them. They cannot, they say, give us prices for agricultural products higher than those they give to their own farmers. The case is quite frankly stated at the general meeting by all the Ministers. Nothing further about trans-shipment has emerged at the time of writing (4.30 p.m.). Of course nothing will be done without reporting home for instructions.

A general desire to see the end of Partition was expressed by Eden to the Minister for Supplies.3 Machtig, Deputy Secretary of the Dominions Office, expressed the same pious wish to me. Would you approve of my saying that they could at least hand over the Counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh at once as a gesture, and that we should accept them without prejudice to our claim to the union of the whole area within Ireland? I am quite sure nothing will come of it, but it is a pity to let them get away with the implication that they can do nothing. Even the British must admit that they haven't a shadow of a claim to Tyrone and Fermanagh.

There is very real pessimism about the present state of the war operations. The defeat in Norway4 is regarded as a blow of the first magnitude, not merely to British naval power (which is primarily affected), but to the prestige of Great Britain all over the world. They don't know what to make of Italy's hostile manifestations,5 as they cannot believe that she is prepared for war on a serious scale, but on the other hand they are not neglecting the necessary precautions. There is a feeling amounting to a conviction that Hitler will take over the whole Balkans and perhaps Holland and Belgium within the next few months, and the Allies have little or no hope of being able to stop him. They hope (why, I don't know) that Russia will not help Hitler and that Turkey will remain friendly. Next year, they say, with the machine they will then have at their disposal they will be able to undo all Hitler's conquests. One is bewildered to hear such optimism from sane men. I have formed the impression that the Government are too soft, too class-prejudiced (they are almost all of the wealthy Tory family type) to be able to win a war against men of steel like Hitler, Stalin and their followers. Another element of unwarranted optimism is that Japan will not go into the war against them. They seem to be entirely oblivious of their own reactions in the past to parallel world situations.

[initialled] J.P.W.

1 See No. 166.

2 Sir Robert Hudson (1886-1957), Minster of Shipping (Apr.-May 1940).

3 Seán Lemass.

4 By 1 May British and French forces had begun to withdraw from Norway and German forces were consolidating their position across the country.

5 See No. 167.

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