No. 313 NAI DFA Secretary's Files A2

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

Dublin, 18 October 1940

Sir John Maffey came to see me today, by arrangement, at 11.15 a.m. When we had spoken about British refugees (concerning whom he is to write immediately) and a few other less important matters, he referred once more to the question of the boom. I asked him how it was that neither Harrison nor Godfrey1 had spoken about the boom. Harrison at least, who spoke in so much detail about the nature of our defences, would have felt bound to speak about it if it had been mentioned to him as an urgent matter. Maffey replied that he had no doubt that the question was still and would remain a very live one. How could we expect the British Fleet to give us serious help, when requested by us in the event of a German invasion, if we did not provide some harbour with the protection required by them. He thought we had over-stressed our political difficulties in this matter. Our arguments appeared trivial to the British Government, on account of the extreme importance of close co-operation if Ireland were to be invaded. Anyhow, we could use the boom to prevent British ships coming in if we thought fit to do so, and, that being the position, Maffey did not see why the political difficulties could be regarded by us as serious.

I told him that the size of the boom and the number of men and ships required to put it up were difficulties not easy to overcome either vis-à-vis our own people or vis-à-vis the Germans whose planes must now be in a position to survey our territorial waters even when flying outside them.

Maffey went on to urge that the acceptance of the boom – and he was ready to tell his people to erect it with as little ostentation as possible – was a means of establishing greater confidence between us.

Having dismissed the boom question, much to my surprise he reverted to our difficulties of July last. He asked me if I had ever believed a British re-occupation of this country possible. I said that at one time I felt quite sure it was going to take place, and anybody who had as much evidence as I had would have come to the same conclusion. The sustained campaign – specifically in favour of re-occupation – in Great Britain and America, the Tegart mission, and the positive statements made to us by people closely connected with the British Army, made it impossible for my Minister not to entertain serious suspicions about British intentions. He would remember that I said all that to him in July, and I had not changed my view since. The events, and the order in which they occurred, seemed to furnish greater proof of the intention to re-occupy each time I went back over them.

He than asked me if I thought he was implicated. I replied that I had not excluded that possibility, but I also made allowance for the possibility of his Government keeping him in the dark about a project with which he was not in agreement. This reply seemed to disconcert him somewhat, and he assured me in most earnest fashion that, if at any time he thought that such a project was seriously entertained, he would at once have resigned his position as British Representative here.

I insisted that the British Government, either through Dulanty or through him (Maffey), had not taken much pains to eliminate our suspicions during the bad period. In fact, to this day we had never received any explanation of the military movements in the Six-County area during the first week of July. Maffey replied to this point by saying that he himself, although he had asked for the explanation at my instance, had never been given any; but he presumed it was some foolish alarm which the military people did not want to acknowledge.

He then came to the real purpose of his reference to the re-occupation issue. He said he thought, in order to remove any suspicions which might still linger, especially about his personal connivance, that he should explain what really happened at the time and what was, in his view, the source of all the trouble. There had been serious and prolonged discussions between the politicians and the Army on the issue of the British troops entering our territory. The military pressed very strongly for a decision allowing them to enter our territory, without an invitation from the Irish Government, at the moment of the German attack. The political considerations had prevailed and the Army had to acquiesce, and, in his (Maffey's) view, there was no possibility whatever of the British forces coming in here without the existence of an interval, or a 'hiatus', as he called it, between the beginning of a German attack and your formal invitation given personally through the United Kingdom representative.

I assured Maffey that you would be very glad to hear what he had said about the whole incident, as it would to a very considerable degree explain the rumours which were reaching us during that period. I said it was very frank of him to give me this information, and he could take it that my suspicions were now dissipated. However, in order to provide for possible difficulties in the future, I thought it better to say that we could not expect that the British Army authorities had given up their point of view; on the contrary, we must expect them to press that point of view more and more strongly as the German menace of an invasion of Britain increased.

He again emphasised that the political decision was final. Irish matters were the most delicate that the British Government had to deal with. They had to consider, not merely the degree to which Irish feeling in Britain would be moved by the occupation of this country, but they had to consider above all the feelings of the United States and the disastrous repercussions which would inevitably be caused over there.

I asked him what he thought generally of the possibility of an invasion of this country by Germany, and particularly of the case made for such an invasion by Godfrey and Harrison. Personally, I said, I did not think that the arguments were convincing. The Germans would expose themselves to almost certain defeat, and it was incredible that they could maintain themselves in this country and operate against Britain or British commerce without a safe line of communication with their bases. If ever the invasion were to take place, it could only be a successful operation carried out in conjunction with the invasion of Great Britain.

Maffey agreed with this point of view, and said that he was not convinced, but, on the other hand, the British Army had to provide for every contingency and they were naturally anxious to secure the fullest co-operation from us.

1 Admiral John H. Godfrey (1888-1971), Director of Admiralty Intelligence (1939-42).

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