Volume 3 1926~1932

Doc No.

No. 20 NAI DFA GR 224

Letter from Count Gerald O'Kelly de Gallagh to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(1045/E/26) (Confidential)

Brussels, 19 July 1926

A Chara,

I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your confidential letter of the 15th instant, Ref. 244/130, SL/MM,1 and in reply hasten to give you the benefit of my views on the matter from the standpoint of the Saorstát Representative in Brussels.

In view of the undetermined condition of An Saorstát's representation in Belgium, it was inevitable that an invitation to the Belgian Royal family to unveil the Memorial at Wytschaete would have to come through the British Ambassador. Our experience at the unveiling of the Ypres monument two years ago indicates that this is the only channel that the Belgians can recognise under the present conditions. At the same time, to reinforce my position here, I would advise that a supplementary note be sent to the British Government asking them to instruct the British Ambassador to communicate with me in the matter and to let me know the result of his démarches. If a member of the Belgian Royal family is to attend, it is, as I stated before, essential that the Military Attachés of the various ex-allied powers should be invited and I believe that all such invitations should issue from this office. As I understand that there is to be no unknown warrior ceremony, the question of the personal presence of the British Ambassador is not so likely to arise, as he is hardly likely to go to Wytschaete for the occasion. If a special representative of the Government is to come out from Ireland for the occasion, it is all the more necessary that the services of the British Embassy should only be utilised insofar as it is necessary to secure the attendance of a member of the Royal Family and that for everything else this office should organise the proceedings.

Should it for any reasons which I cannot now foresee be decided to leave the whole thing in the hands of the British Embassy then I have no hesitation in saying that it would be calamitous for a Representative of the Irish Government to be present in any capacity. So far as I can see we are on the horns of a dilemma, because you may be perfectly assured that if there is no Irish representation the British Embassy's Publicity Services will see that quite a lot of publicity is given to the fact that they still run Irish manifestations overseas. If on the other hand there is an Irish representation and the British Embassy are allowed to run the ceremony, my position here will obviously have been completely undermined whether the representative be myself or somebody from home.

I have no doubt whatever that if I get strong support from you in this matter, together with cooperation from General Hickie's Committee, I can still arrange things so as to save the situation, but this support would undoubtedly entail the sending of a perfectly clear despatch to the British Government on the lines indicated in the second paragraph of this letter. Particularly in view of their recent attitude, you will appreciate how essential it is for me in my relations with the British Embassy that they should have no doubt whatever concerning the amount of support I receive from my Government. It appears to me that we had the choice of two things to do, either boycott the ceremony altogether, which in view of the action taken vis-à-vis the British Government is now obviously impossible, or else to capture the ceremony ourselves, limiting the sphere of action of the British Embassy to an invitation to the Belgian Royal Family. This latter course can, I submit, quite easily be adopted at this stage and will not strike the Belgian authorities as in any way peculiar. You will remember that they themselves indicated such a course in connection with the Ypres Memorial two years ago.

Please let me know by return, if possible, what it is proposed to do.

With reference to the laying of a wreath on the unknown warrior's tomb, I would strongly urge that you represent to General Hickie's Committee that this ceremony be entirely omitted. I do not think it is at all to be desired that a procession of Irish soldiers waving Union Jacks as well as Tricolours be paraded through the streets of Brussels.

As soon as I receive your reply, if it is in the sense that I have suggested, I will myself unofficially approach the General Secretary of the Affaires Etrangères telling him that my Government is approaching him through the protocolaire channel with a view to inviting a representative of the Royal Family to unveil the Irish monument at Wytschaete, and asking him personally to do what he can in the matter. This would, I believe, meet the situation completely.

Mise, do chara,
[signed] Count O'Kelly de Gallagh

1 Not printed