No. 246 NAI DFA Madrid Embassy CON 4/7/22 No. 4

Confidential report from Leopold H. Kerney to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(M.10/11) (Confidential)

Madrid, 29 July 1940

I paid my last visit to Ryan on Saturday evening 12th July, and handed him his sister's letter sent by you on 18th June as well as two parcels of books.

Knowing what was in the wind, I wished to have a serious talk with him on matters which we had not previously breached, and which it had always been my intention to discuss with him whenever he should be relieved of his shackles; as I could no longer count on giving him the hospitality of the Legation, I had to make this special visit.

It was of course understood all along that your efforts and mine to secure his liberty were not associated with any desire to impose conditions of any kind on him, but it was desirable that I should make it clear to him that our genuine concern for him as an Irish prisoner in a foreign land did not relieve us of responsibility of taking certain precautions, after his liberty had been secured, so that no harm might result from any failure on our part to observe his future movements and associations.

And so our conversation, in the usual frank and friendly manner, concerned itself with whips, scorpions &c. I pointed out to him all the dangers of the present situation, as I saw it, and, whilst agreeing with him that morally there could be no objection to using certain remedies, I got him to agree with me that sometimes a remedy can be more annihilating than the disease. He said that he had no intention of relying on information which might be given to him from other than Irish sources, and that he was really in the dark at the moment; he asked me where were Seán MacBride1 and Moss Twomey,2 but I knew nothing about them; he told me that news had reached him that Seán Russell3 had left the U.S.A. for Germany in May, and that the I.R.A. had tried to prevent his journey thither, that Russell had been expelled in 1937 from the I.R.A., and that he himself (Ryan) had previously left that organisation, although this did not mean that he would keep aloof from his former friends. I warned him against allowing himself to be drawn into any action likely to lead to the shedding of blood in Ireland; I told him that I knew he would allow himself to be shot before doing anything dishonourable, but, as mistaken judgment on his part might have deplorable consequences, he should think twice before doing anything; I reminded him how he had been utterly wrong in his judgment of the Spanish situation, and, that if the side for which he fought had won, that victory would have gone far towards making the realisation of his present hopes impossible.

He said that, if he got to Ireland, he would go to thank Mr. de Valera for all that had been done on his behalf, but that, having done so, he would retain his right to oppose the policy of the Government; I told him that nobody would object to that attitude, but that it might be my duty to suggest that his movements in Ireland should be watched so that any opposition of a violent nature could be countered.

Ryan was suspicious of the Government's attitude in the present upheaval and was inclined to think that there might be certain secret commitments; I could only assure him that, so far as I was aware, there was no justification for these suspicions, that I believed we would defend our neutrality at all costs, against the first intruder certainly, and quite possibly against the second as well; any Irishman helping one or the other would re-kindle civil war in Ireland.

When we finished our conversations, I told Ryan, in the same friendly spirit, that, apart from the satisfaction of succeeding in an almost impossible task, I had many selfish reasons for being glad to get rid of him, as he had taken up a great deal of my time, given me a lot of worry and caused me no little expense, whilst the almost impassable road from Burgos to the prison had certainly shortened the life of my car. I gave him one final assurance and that was that I would see to it that the final chapter was not going to be – 'Shot whilst attempting to escape', or, at least, that, in such an unlikely event, it would not be a case of 'Spurles versenkt'.4 I accomplished that promise, as you know, at a cost of 1,500 pesetas (petrol is 5 pesetas per litre) of which amount I would like to claim a refund whenever circumstances permit.

On 17th July, believing Ryan to be still in prison, I sent six tins of condensed milk, using a certain address in Burgos for the purpose, and the same day I wrote a line of encouragement, though I was becoming concerned myself, as I was completely in the dark and new complications seemed to have arisen.

On 24th July, I sent him a prepaid wire asking him to let me know whether he needed 150 or only 100 pesetas at the end of the month, and also to send me by letter a list of necessary foodstuffs; the wire served its purpose; I got no reply.

I am of opinion that it would be useless for me to attempt to obtain any more information about Ryan through official channels, and I do not expect to hear anything from any other source, at least for weeks to come.

1 Seán MacBride (1904-88), Chief-of-Staff of the IRA (1936), founded Clann na Poblachta (1946), Minister for External Affairs (1948-51); practised at the Irish Bar during the Second World War, where he defended a number of IRA members brought before the courts.

2 Maurice Twomey (1887-1978), Chief-of-Staff of the IRA (1927-36); Adjutant General, IRA (1938-9).

3 Seán Russell (1893-1940), Chief of Staff of the IRA (1938-9).

4 Literally 'sunk without trace'.

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