Volume 6 1939~1941

Doc No.

No. 68 NAI DFA 219/49

Memorandum from John J. Hearne to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(14/12) (Copy)

Ottawa, 14 November 1939

I have referred in previous reports to the absence of comment upon Ireland in the Canadian Press since the commencement of hostilities. I have also referred to the fact that the exchange of official representatives with Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa has been defended here by the Prime Minister as part of a policy of closer co-operation between Canada and those countries for the successful prosecution of the war. At the Remembrance ceremony on Armistice Day representatives of Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland (in that order) laid wreaths on the Cenotaph as a group. The Prime Minister represented Canada, and Australia and New Zealand were represented by members of the Air Training Missions of those countries. This is the only occasion in the year on which the United Kingdom High Commissioner, the Accredited Representative of the Union of South Africa and the High Commissioner for Ireland precede the representatives of other countries. The reason is that the Remembrance ceremony is regarded as 'a family affair'. The doyen of the corps (Baron Silvercruys, Belgian Minister) was prevailed upon by Sir Gerald Campbell1 (so the latter told me) to consent to the arrangement on that ground. But apart from the Remembrance ceremony and the reason given by the Canadian Government for the exchange of representatives with Ireland etc. at the present time there appears to be a settled policy of staging down our position as a neutral country. The result is a blackout of Ireland in public speeches (in most of which the 'unity of the Empire' is emphasised) in the newspapers, and even in the conversation of official people. No member of the Cabinet has initiated any conversation with us on the question of our attitude to the war. I have been the guest of Mr. King on three occasions and on two others he and I were guests of the same host (the Governor General and the Belgian Minister). On none of these occasions (on all of which we had some general conversation) did he refer to our neutrality policy. On Wednesday the 8th November when we dined at Laurier House he gave us (as second guests of honour, Mr. and Mrs. Meyer being the guests of honour) an exceptionally kind welcome and took us over the house. He spoke of his disappointment that Mr. de Valera had to postpone his visit to Canada adding that Mr. de Valera had many warm friends in the Dominion. But he did not refer to the war. While we were at dinner, the news came of the Buergerbrau bomb explosion at Munich.2 Mr. King related the news to his guests. (Captain Balfour, British Under-Secretary of State for Air, almost cheered). That was Mr. King's only reference to the war during the evening. He made none to our neutrality policy in conversation with us. He does not invite references to the subject. Any conversations I had with him upon it were initiated by me. When I paid him an official call on September the 24th he spent most of the time explaining his own position along the same lines as his public speeches. I told him that no Irish Government would have taken any course other than that taken by the present Government and that the Parliament and people were solid behind the Government's decision. I also said that Mr. de Valera and Mr. Chamberlain had been very closely in touch during the past two years. I referred to the Taoiseach's telegram to Mr. Chamberlain during the Munich crisis last year; and referred to the similarity between its terms and those of his own (then recent) telegram to Herr Hitler. Mr. King beamed all over. I said that I was sure that Mr. de Valera's present attitude which was a continuation of his peace policy was well understood in London. Mr. King's only comment was: 'I hope so'. He then continued to explain his own attitude. He went so far as to say that his war policy was a continuation of the fight for liberty traditional in his own family since the Mackenzie 'Rebellion'. On a subsequent occasion I explained to him the connection between the bombing incidents in England for some months prior to the war and Mr. de Valera's neutrality policy as stated about the same time. He seemed enormously interested. It apparently had not occurred to him that any group of Irishmen, however small, would want to be against Great Britain in the war and would consequently regard neutrality as a departure from the 'England's difficulty' doctrine.

Dr. Manion is the only man of standing in the Canadian Parliament who has so far very definitely defended our attitude. He is a wholehearted supporter of the war policy of Mr. King's Government. He came to see me (returning my official call) on the 26th October. He remained longer with me than any other caller except the Apostolic Delegate. On that occasion he said that he fully understood the position Ireland had taken up. No one, he said, who remembers 'the savage treatment of Ireland by Britain' can fairly criticise our neutrality policy. I thought it right to say at that stage that our policy was not directed against Great Britain. I repeated, as I have done to many others, the Taoiseach's statement that he would not permit Ireland to be used as a basis of attack on Great Britain.

I am submitting the foregoing observations as they are with a view to drawing the distinction which exists between the official Canadian attitude to us as Irish representatives and personally on the one hand and to the policy of neutrality on the other. The attitude to us is of the warmest, the attitude to present national policy is of the most reserved. (I informed Mr. Skelton in the sense of your cable of the 31st October3 and we will have a further general talk when I receive your note on the general neutrality situation.) If it is possible to get over to the Canadian people a clear impression that our policy is not directed against Great Britain that will clear the air. The one thing we cannot be here is anti-British, especially at the present time. I think it right, therefore, whenever I can, privately, to emphasise that our neutrality policy is not evidence of hostility to Great Britain. Neither does it (I have said) represent a purely negative frame of mind on the war itself. It is a positive and active peace policy steadily pursued in a most difficult set of circumstances regardless of the war slogans of one side or another: I have not of course used phrases like 'the war slogans of one side or the other'. Last evening I addressed the Queen's University (Kingston) Alumni Association. That was my first address in the presence of the press. I took the line of the Taoiseach's speeches on certain parts of the Constitution: the Christian Commonwealth line. I did not (and shall not in public, except on your instructions) deal with any controversial matter. But I have received invitations to address all kinds of bodies, some very important. I declined to address the Catholic Youth of Canada at their rally here two Sundays ago. I told the organizers that an address by me at the moment might do more harm than good to interests we all had at heart. They understood. I am invited again and again to broadcast (coast to coast) by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The Director, Mr. Gladstone Murray, is a Scotsman who is very friendly to us. He asked me once more today. I put him off for a few weeks. I have been invited also by the Canadian Club, which is (Dr. Skelton tells me) the body the Taoiseach would have addressed (Parliament not in session) had he come here in October. It is the best platform in Canada. I have put them off until next year. I have done the same to the Rotary Club. But I have already accepted the invitation of the Irish Historical Society to be their chief speaker on the 16th March and to speak also at their banquet on St. Patrick's Day. On Saturday next I am to address the Canadian Catholic Women's Association (at the Chateau Laurier) which is one of the biggest Catholic organisations in the world. I could not get out of it especially as the Archbishop of Ottawa is to preside and the new Catholic Chaplain General of the Canadian Overseas Armies, Monsignor Neligan, Bishop of Pembroke, is to attend. They wish me to speak on 'Citizenship' as one of the activities of this huge organization is devoted to the study of the relations between the citizen and the State. I am taking again the Christian Commonwealth line following texts already approved by you during the past few years.

I would submit that talks of that kind might form a basis for a cultural foreign policy for Canada. I do not think (subject to your views) that we can get very far here along the line of strong and reiterated public or private references to our neutrality in the war. It would be taken as a criticism of Canada's participation. It would be resented by the Government and the people generally – although many of the latter would defend it – and it would make the Department of External Affairs nervous of our public appearance. It would, in addition, result in our exclusion from social contacts with people with whom – whatever their politics – we should be upon good and even intimate personal relations. The proper course, it seems to me, would be to emphasise the cultural aspects of our history and our hopes for the future. We should in other words emphasise the premises from which a neutral policy follows as a natural conclusion. It is for that reason that I request in my minute of the 8th instant4 an amplification of the expressions 'natural sentiment' and 'national interest' in your cable of the 31st October.5

If a course along the lines just stated should commend itself to you the most workmanlike method of carrying it out would, I think, be to have the actual text of a number of talks prepared in Dublin and transmitted to me to be delivered on occasions (not too frequent) which you might perhaps allow me to choose. If there is not the time in the Department in present circumstances to prepare actual texts perhaps short sketches of talks might be sent to me. Or if you preferred to instruct me as to the things I should not say or the subjects I should not refer to that would be another way. Should you take the view that it is not desirable for me to pursue what I have called a cultural foreign policy at all for the present and that it would be better not to speak in public until later on I am sure you will instruct me in that sense. Addresses by official representatives are a usual feature of life in Ottawa which is a meeting place for innumerable Canadian organisations. I do not urge the necessity for my falling into line with that custom at the present difficult time. On the other hand I do not shirk the duty, if you feel it is, now above all, a duty which our representative here should perform. I should like, however, to perform it with credit and something in the nature of outstanding success. And it is because I do not feel that my own knowledge of Irish history is sound enough and that I do not know what line of approach to the development of a cultural foreign policy would most commend itself to you that I am asking you to help me in the way I have indicated.

Dr. Skelton expressed his regret to me today that he was unable to come to my address to the graduates of Queen's. He was good enough to say that he had heard it was a great success.

(Sgd) John J. Hearne

1 Sir Gerald Campbell (1879-1964), British High Commissioner in Canada (1938-41), later Director-General of British Information Services in New York (1941), British Minister at the Embassy in Washington (1941-5).

2 On 8 November 1939 an attempt was made to assassinate Hitler at the Beurgerbrau during celebrations to mark the 1923 'Munich Putsch'. A bomb left by Johann Elser near the podium at which Hitler addressed his audience exploded eight minutes after Hitler had departed. The explosion killed eight people and wounded sixty-five.

3 See No. 64.

4 See No. 66.

5 See No. 64.