No. 33 NAI DFA ES Rome 1921-23

Sean Murphy to Desmond FitzGerald (Dublin)

8 February 1923

A Chara,

I am in receipt of your letter No 216.

As your instructions in reference to giving up the house were very definite I did not think it necessary to report to you as to the opinion of the Irish Colony in this connection. I merely shut up the house and left it vague as to whether the Government would form an office later on or not. With regard to a report on the general situation in Rome I thought it better to reserve that until I was in a position to know the opinion of the prominent people there.

I am enclosing herewith a short report.


The general opinion in Rome amongst the Irish Clergy with regard to the present situation in Ireland is in favour of the Free State. There are however some exceptions. In some cases though supporters of the Free State the opinions were critical of the actions of the Government.

For example amongst the Irish Dominicans, who are almost entirely in favour of the Free State, they consider the action of the Government in regard to the measures taken against the Irregulars (executions etc) unwise and unduly severe. They say that facts prove that these measures have failed, and that their continuance will only exasperate the country. They criticize the Government for not making a more determined effort to solve the problem by other means.

The Irish Christian Brothers are I think entirely in favour of the Free State and agree that the Government have done all they can to settle the question without resorting to extreme measures, but that now there is nothing left for them to do. They consider that the Government is only doing its duty to the country in using every means to restore order.

The Rector1 of the Irish College, on whom I called and with whom I had a short conversation, pretended that he was in favour of neither one side or the other, and that his only thought was, how an arrangement could be brought about to end the present strife. I saw from the trend of his arguments that he blamed the Government for the present state of things. He suggested that the only way peace could be restored was the acceptance by the Government of Document No 2. I am reliably informed by other clerics that he is very definitely pro-Irregular. I was not able to gather the opinion of the students but was told that they were careful not to voice an opinion one way or the other at least in public. I also met the Vice-Rector,2 but he was very careful in all his remarks. I would be inclined to think that his feelings were with the Irregulars, but that his common sense leads him to the Free State. To get out of the difficulty he avoids giving any opinion.

Dr MacGuinness, the General of the Carmelites who is as you know at present in America, is definitely and actively pro-irregular.

Dr O'Gorman the Augustinian, who has I believe considerable influence[,] being a consultor to the Holy Office, is strongly Free State and a supporter of the Government. Though there were some things which he did not personally approve of, he refrained from criticism on the ground that the Government knew the situation better than anyone outside the country, and that their actions were guided by that knowledge.

As far as I could gather the Vatican is favourable to the Free State. Dr O'Gorman told me that even during the war the Vatican[,] as such, was not hostile, though there were certain personages there who were distinctly anti-Irish.

With regard to the petition presented by the Irregulars asking for the condemnation of the Irish Bishops, all the Irish priests in Rome looked upon it as an act of madness which will have no result. With regard to the report given to Irish press by the presentors of the petition, I hope to have some definite information in a few days which I will send you.

The Irish Jesuits in Rome were all in favour of the Free State and supporters of the Government.

The only layman I met was the Marquis MacSwiney. He was very useful to me and gave me a great deal of assistance. He is a strong Free Stater and a supporter of the Government. He is engaged in forming an Irish Section in the Vatican Library. The section is now almost complete, and is very representative. He seems to have influence at the Vatican, and as far as I could find out is well thought of there.

The opinion with regard to the Delegation was practically all in favour of closing. During the war its only possible function was to counteract English Propaganda, now there was nothing to do. The continuance was considered as an expensive luxury. Until such time as the nominee of the Irish Government was recognised by the Vatican there would be absolutely no use having anyone in Rome. The opinion was that the Vatican would not take any step towards recognition until some other country had led the way. The Vatican Court is very conservative, and in such matters is very slow to move.

These views coincide exactly with the superficial opinion that I was able to form during my short stay.


1Monsignor John Hagan.

2Michael Curran.

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