No. 223  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P60

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

DUBLIN, 31 August 1942

The Taoiseach
Following your telephone message from Cork this morning, I saw Sir John Maffey at 11 a.m.

I gave him the text of your message to Mr. Churchill and asked him to transmit it at once on his direct line. The message read as follows:-

'The saving at this last moment, through your personal intervention,

of the life of young Williams, who is to be executed on Wednesday

morning in Belfast, would profoundly affect public feeling here. I

know the difficulties, but results would justify, and I urge strongly that

you do it.'


I asked Sir John Maffey further to make sure the full details of the case were conveyed to Mr. Churchill, as well as the text of the proposed statement. He told me that he was quite sure that that had already been done. However, I went over the principal points again with him, and I emphasised in particular the fact that the policeman was still standing on his feet while Williams was lying wounded and unconscious. This point was brought out particularly in the statement made by the Reprieve Committee last evening after the reprieve of five of the men had been announced. I also showed him several statements, advertisements, telegrams and resolutions which had been suppressed by us in order not to aggravate the position, and I asked him to impress on Mr. Churchill that the attitude of the Government had been one of complete understanding for the difficulties of the British Government in the matter.

I then went on to talk to him about the omission of the words 'in time'. Their inclusion would give the impression to our people that the Taoiseach was committing himself to leaving the issue of Partition on the long finger. They would spoil the effect of the statement amongst our own people, and hence its repercussions as far as Great Britain was concerned. It would be unwise for the British Government to leave them in. It was to their interest that the statement should have the full force intended by the Taoiseach. Sir John Maffey said he would do his best to have them omitted, but he didn't agree with the Taoiseach that the words would be read in that sense. They were part of the statement now, no doubt, in Mr. Churchill's hands, and he didn't like producing any contrary effect by asking for their removal. However, he would do so. I thought it better to say that you recognised that the words were in the text as given to him, and you could only rely on British goodwill to see your point of view and to accept the alteration.

Sir John Maffey then told me that he felt that your intervention had already had a good effect. He received a telegram on Saturday crossing his, informing him that four men had been reprieved. He believes the addition of the fifth man to the list of reprieved was due to his message from you.

He was a bit worried about the publicity given to last evening's statement by the Reprieve Committee, but he seemed to go away quite satisfied when I explained to him that we had omitted the offending parts on the radio. He also accepted the view that the Government would be put in a false position with our own people if they did not allow the full text of the statement to be published in the press.

[initialled] J. P. W.

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