No. 61 NAI DFA ES London 1921

Art O'Brien to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

London, 23 February 1921

A Eamon a Chara,
Very many thanks for your kind note of the 15th1 and your sympathetic enquiries after my health. Whatever the strain we, representatives abroad, have to put up with, it is I am sure very little in comparison to the terrible strain and trials you yourself must have undergone during your campaign in America. I had altogether a very unfortunate year during 1920, commencing with a bad accident in January, followed by an attack of pleurisy and pneumonia, which kept me away from the office for 4 months. I had not properly recovered when poor Terry2 was brought over here, and the strain and anxiety, during the three months of his tragic sacrifice, caused a further breakdown, which laid me up for nearly another two months. Six months of enforced and nearly complete idleness meant an awful accumulation of routine work, which I am now endeavouring to pull up. Thank God, my health at the present is better than it has been for years past, and so I am hoping shortly to get the arrears out of the way.

I am rather hampered here by want of sufficient staff. This is possibly partly my own fault as I have not definitely reported to the Ministry on the matter. It has been my intention to make a full report for many months past, but the arrears of routine work, illness and the sudden rushes of immediate work like the Wormwood Scrubs Prisoners, Dr. Mannix's arrival, Terry's imprisonment etc, have prevented my having the time and opportunity for dealing with it adequately. I will not bother you with that further now, as I shall hope to make the report and send it forward to the Ministry within the next week.3

Naturally our activities here are being more and more hampered and hindered, both overtly and covertly. M.C. has probably told you I have been expecting arrest for some time past, and so have retired to quarters which I think are safe. However I get two or three messengers a day and keep in touch well, and keep the work going at the Office as well as if I were there almost. It has the added advantage that I have no calls on the telephone and no visitors, which affords the only possible chance of my pulling up the arrears of work. A warrant for my arrest is made out, as it is for others. On Monday the 21st inst., they arrested Sean MacGraith (Secretary I.S.D.L.4), who was down on the same list with me.

The I.S.D.L. here has done good work since its establishment nearly two years ago. It has done more to consolidate our people in all the Irish centres, but particularly in London, than any previous political organisation. I am sorry I have not a report to send you, but at a later date I will endeavour to send you more details.

I am not satisfied with method of formation of our Central Relief Committee, (in support of the White Cross) here. Unfortunately I was unable to get to the first meeting, which, in any case, seems to have been rather too hurried. However, I think that with a little time and patience we will get matters right. The money seems to be coming in fairly well at the moment, but a great deal more could be done, with a few changes and further attention to detail.

I should personally certainly appreciate a very long chat with you on propaganda, and on the work and position of affairs here generally. I sincerely regret it is not possible at the moment. Your advice, opinion and consideration would be of the greatest help. In a sense I have to plough rather a lonely furrow here in many matters of importance. However 'Beidh lá eile ag an Paorach'.

With regard to propaganda a lot more could be done here if I had the staff to do it and were not restricted in expenditure. For Foreign Propaganda this is probably the most important centre in existence, as Press Correspondents from every country are congregated both for agencies and particular journals. I have about 90 of them on my list. I will be making suggestions on this matter in my report. In the meantime I shall be very glad to hear from whoever is appointed in D.[esmond] F.[itzGerald]'s place, as there are some details that await attention and clearing up. There has been some little misunderstanding between D.F. and myself. I don't think there was any particular necessity for it; it was mostly due to a difference in view point. I suppose it would be too much to expect that everything would run perfectly smoothly. If D.F.'s successor could possibly manage, after I have sent in my report, to come over here and have a chat over the whole position, I think it would be very advantageous.

Vatican interference. I was very glad to have your note on this matter. Exactly the same point had occurred to me. I sent a letter to the Press with reference to Cardinal Bourne's statement, in which I purposely brought in the matter of English intrigues at the Vatican. Copies of the letter were sent to all the Foreign Press correspondents, and I have sent copies to our representative in Paris and Rome. The letter was reproduced in the 'Independent' but they got some of the paragraphs transposed. A few days later I sent a letter to the 'Times' in reply to a long letter of Lord Denbigh's and I had the same purpose in view. The 'Times' did not publish the letter, but copies of it have been sent to all the Catholic Press, the foreign correspondents, etc., in the same way as the first.

There was a meeting of the London District Committee last Thursday, and I sent them a long communication on this subject advising that (1) a public statement should be issued signed by the officers, (2) that a public meeting of Irish Catholics should be held in the largest hall we could get, the meeting to be convened not by the I.S.D.L., but by an acting committee of Irish Catholics, and that speakers should be chosen who were not prominently identified with the I.S.D.L. I am waiting now to hear from the Secretary as to what decision was come to.

You will in the meantime have had communicated to you my memorandum of the 17th, quoting in full a report of Mrs. G.[avan] D.[uffy], on this subject.

Slán agus beannacht Dé ort. Go neartuigh Dia do lámh agus go gcoimeádfaidh Sé saor thu.

Mise do chara le meas mór,
Art O'Briain

1 Not located.

2 Terence MacSwiney.

3 No. 75.

4 Irish Self-Determination League.

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