No. 200 NAI DFA Legal Adviser's Papers

Memorandum by Michael Rynne (Dublin)

Dublin, 24 June 1940

Suggested Action in Intensified Emergency

It appears not unlikely that the emergency will, so far as this country is concerned, become greatly intensified during the next few weeks.

This is not to say that Ireland will necessarily become involved as a belligerent in the war.

The transfer of the war into Great Britain and Northern Ireland would suffice to create a new and much more serious state of affairs here with which the Government will be called upon to deal. Even if the preliminary stages of the hostilities against our near neighbours consist merely of blockade measures against them, our interests may suffer. In the event of the blockade being accompanied by an increased aerial bombardment of British objectives, Ireland's position will be still more serious. It will be gravely involved if and when an invasion of the 'United Kingdom' is attempted.

2. Certain necessary action to deal with an intensified emergency will immediately occur to the mind of anyone who gives the foregoing possibilities a moment's thought. Many of the steps which will be necessary are, doubtless, having the attention of the Departments directly or exclusively concerned. Some of these steps, however, may have been overlooked or postponed although, in fact, extremely urgent.

3. In order to place such matters out of doubt, this Department which is mainly interested in the 'neutrality' aspects of the crisis now approaching, will have to raise a number of points for the observations of the various Departments. Eventually these points may have to be submitted to the Government for their decisions and, in some cases, for the making of new Emergency Powers Orders.

4. One of the chief questions which appears to require immediate consideration is that of closing our frontiers during the coming period of intensified emergency. This means the closing of both our land and sea frontiers. In regard to our land frontier, it is only too clear that unless we take early action to restrict immigration from the North, we may find ourselves quite unable to stem a flood of refugees from Northern Ireland when that territory falls victim to aerial bombardment or invasion. Such refugees would be largely destitute persons, undesirable aliens (Jews etc.) and possibly, would include members of the British Armed Forces. Our economic life, our public security and our neutrality would be, therefore, endangered by the continuation of the present system of an open land frontier. A cordon composed of military patrols, police, health officers, Customs officers etc. is, therefore, absolutely vital to protect this country from virtual 'invasion' from the Six Counties. That cordon ought to be formed and placed in readiness at once.

No one should be allowed to traverse the cordon in either direction except after personal identification (by the police) and when armed with a special permit (by the military).

The same applies, having regard to the somewhat different circumstances to travel to and from Ireland by sea. In that connection, we must have greatly increased preventive staffs at the recognised Eastern ports and constant patrols along the East coast, from Louth to Waterford.

5. Another point, which to some extent arises out of the foregoing, is that which relates to the landing in this country of members of the armed forces of the different belligerents. Whether these arrive over the Border, or by air, and sea, they should be interned until the end of the hostilities. This applies to land forces who may take refuge here having been routed in Ulster, to naval ratings shipwrecked on our shores and to airmen forced to land on our territory or waters by any reason. Consequently, preparations should be made to accommodate internees in camps established as far as possible from the war-zone.

6. The question of our cable and other communications abroad, especially with the Irish Legations in other countries and the question of contacting indirectly certain Legations during a time when they may find themselves directly cut off from Dublin are being considered in the Department. It is not necessary to advert in detail to these questions now.

7. The future movements of shipping, so far as we can control it, is of particular importance. It has formed the subject of semi-official discussions with the Department of Industry and Commerce (Transport and Marine Branch) and must be considered under three heads viz:-

(a) Irish shipping – should this be ordered to remain in port or to return to port for the duration?

(b) Atlantic shipping with cargoes for Ireland – should (and could) this be routed to West of Ireland harbours?

(c) Foreign shipping generally – can we prevent our Eastern ports and our territorial waters from becoming congested by British and other foreign ships during a time when British Western ports are in danger? In regard to all the above points Mr. Flynn (Transport and Marine Branch)1 is inclined to agree with the view of this Department that merchant shipping of every nationality should be more strictly controlled by us, during a period of blockade warfare, insofar as we are able to exert any control at all. Thus, Mr. Flynn does not see any difficulty in retaining Irish ships in port, if the Government feel that by putting to sea, running the blockade and being sunk while flying the Irish flag, they would prove a source of embarrassment to the Government. The Minister for Industry and Commerce already possesses adequate powers over Irish shipping and it is thought that Irish shipowners would willingly obey the Minister's order to remain in safety. On the question of foreign ships destined for dangerous Irish ports, Mr. Flynn states that there should be no technical difficulty (so long as our wireless transmitters are working) in routeing such ships to Western ports. Doubtless in most cases the ships would take the advice passed to them.

With regard to the matter, however, of the overcrowding of our harbours and roadsteads by foreign shipping desirous of escaping destruction in the Irish Sea, Mr. Flynn pointed out that, unless we could use force to move on such shipping, it was unlikely to take to sea until all danger was past.

This problem is, consequently, one for the Department of Defence rather than for the Department of Industry & Commerce or the various peacetime Harbour Commissioners.

8. This Department must consider a number of emergency questions arising out of the gradual isolation of our diplomatic offices abroad. Probably the principal question of this kind relates to the financing of Legations which are no longer easily contacted from Dublin. We are discussing this point with the Department of Finance.

9. Finally, there are a number of minor considerations concerning which we in this Department have a view because of their bearing on Irish neutrality. Examples of these are the questions of blacking out (or lighting up) our territory during the war on England and the question of further restricting certain activities (e.g. civil flying over Ireland) which up to now have not been greatly interfered with.

These and other questions of a similar nature will have to be taken up without delay with the technical Departments concerned.

1 T.J. Flynn, Transport and Marine Branch, Department of Industry and Commerce.

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