No. 326 NAI DFA Washington Embassy File 61

Telegram from Robert Brennan to John J. Hearne (Ottawa)1

Washington, 9 November 1940

At the outbreak of the war the Irish Government in accordance with previously stated policy declared Ireland's neutrality. This policy was supported by all parties in the Dáil and by the entire press of the country.

Britain did not question Ireland's right to declare this policy and no attempt was made to interfere with it. The policy of neutrality has been scrupulously observed. The Government established a costly Coast Watching Service to see that none of the warring powers should take advantage of it. In order to defend Ireland's independence and safeguard its neutrality the Government raised the armed forces to 200,000 men all volunteers. A similar force in the United States in proportion to population would be eight million men.

The friendly feeling between the British and Irish peoples which had arisen after the settlement of 1938 was steadily increasing in spite of the fact that the last remaining grievance of the Irish people that of Partition had not been remedied.

On November 5th the British Prime Minister in the course of a speech in the House of Commons said that Britain's deprivation of the use of Irish ports as naval and air bases was a serious handicap in fighting the war being waged on British shipping. This was followed by a chorus of demands in the British Parliament and in the British press for the return of these ports to England and this campaign found an echo in the American press. Press statements emanating from London asserted that the goodwill of the President of the United States might be enlisted to induce the Irish Government to concede the use of the ports by Britain.

In the view of the Irish Government cession or lease of the ports would be a breach of neutrality which would bring Ireland into the war contrary to the declared policy of the Government and the wishes of 99% of the people.

Mr. de Valera asserted on the 7th November2 that Ireland would resist by force any attempt to occupy the ports or to impair Ireland's sovereignty by any of the belligerents. That is the determination of the government and of the people. Under no circumstances will this policy be departed from.

The Government and people of Ireland are in hopes that America the cradle and home of democracy will realise the justice of Ireland's attitude in thus seeking to preserve its independence its peace and its democratic institutions.

1 This is a copy of a statement given to Under-Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, by Brennan. It was transmitted to Hearne for his information.

2 On 7 November de Valera made a statement in Dáil Éireann in response to Churchill, concluding that 'we shall defend our rights in regard to these ports against whoever shall attack them, as we shall defend our rights in regard to every other part of our territory'. See Maurice Moynihan (ed.), Speeches and Statements by Eamon de Valera 1917-73 (Dublin, 1980), pp 449-52.

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