No. 215 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P13

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 41) (Secret)

London, 5 July 19401

1. This evening I handed to Mr. Chamberlain An Taoiseach's letter of the 4th July.2 After reading it twice over he remarked that its terms were not unexpected.

2. Mr. de Valera, he suggested, was probably insisting on uncompromising neutrality because he expected that the British would be beaten. I said I had not heard Mr. de Valera express any such view. 'He thinks that nevertheless' rejoined Mr. Chamberlain 'because he said so to Mr. MacDonald'.

3. All the same he was not sorry that he had made the effort and sent Mr. MacDonald over. It was, unfortunately, not his only unsuccessful effort, especially on this question of neutrality so tragically ignored by the Germans in other countries.

4. I said, as Mr. MacDonald had doubtless reported, our policy of neutrality was that of our three political parties and had the universal approval of our people. No Government in Ireland would last twenty-four hours if it abandoned neutrality.

5. Mr. Chamberlain feared that on our side there was an ineradicable suspicion which defeated the attempts of himself and others in trying to establish better relations between the two peoples.

6. I reminded him of the grounds we had for suspicion. Leaving out of account the past centuries of misrule acknowledged by their own historians it was within the living memory of even young Irishmen today that we had been shamefully let down in the Home Rule Act of 1914 and in the dismal business of the Boundary.

It was not the fault of our statesmen that they had to step warily and with more caution than their European contemporaries.

7. Notwithstanding that, however, neither Mr. Eden, Mr. MacDonald, Lord Caldecote, or any other of his colleagues who were informed of our proceedings entertained the least doubt of the amply benevolent character of our neutrality. To which statement he gave a cordial assent.

'I do not criticise' he said. 'Mr. de Valera is of course completely within his right to decide whichever way he and his Cabinet think fit. But I do reflect that in beginning these conversations I was thinking of you as well as of ourselves. In the mind of the Germans our two countries will assuredly be regarded as one front. I am afraid Mr. de Valera is missing a great opportunity.' With respect I invited him to consider whether they were not missing an even greater opportunity.

8. I mentioned the apprehension in the minds of some of our people that the British might try to take our ports and land troops on our territory without invitation from our Government. It was vital that the British should realise that any such attempt our people would fight resolutely inch by inch, Mr. Chamberlain strongly repudiated any such intention exclaiming with heat, and in language he rarely uses 'Good God, haven't we enough trouble already?' To my suggestion that in view of the spate of articles about us in the British press it would be a good thing to allay apprehensions which, according to him, were groundless, he said that I could certainly inform Mr. de Valera that his position and, he felt sure, of his colleagues, was that they had no intention of entering Éire uninvited.

9. There was a pause at this point and I thought the interview was at an end when in earnest tones Mr. Chamberlain said 'There is one question I would like to ask you. It is this. If the Germans came into Éire would Mr. de Valera fight them?' Without hesitation I said An Taoiseach would fight, and referred to his unequivocal statements long before the war that he would not allow our territory to be made the base of attack on Britain, and, further, his repeated statements during the war that he would resist invasion from whichever quarter it came. Mr. Chamberlain said he was glad to know that we would fight if attacked.

He concluded by saying he supposed we must continue on our present lines and hope for the best.

[signed] J. W. Dulanty

1 Marginal note by Walshe: 'Sent from H.C.'s office on 9th July received here on 10th July. J.P.W. 10/7/40'.

2 See No. 213.

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