Volume 6 1939~1941

Doc No.

No. 225 NAI DFA Secretary's Files A2

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)
(Most Secret) (Copy No. 2)

Dublin, 15 July 1940

The International Situation and Our Critical Position in Relation to It

The British daily Press departed from its threatening attitude about the middle of last week, and the 'Times' on Saturday admitted that 'Éire enjoys geographical advantages denied to Norway, Holland and Belgium', adding 'if help were needed to meet a German invasion, it would be neither belated nor ineffective'.

But the 'Economist' and the 'Tablet', amongst the weekly reviews, kept up the hostile campaign. The bad equipment of our Army is stressed.

In the course of a letter to the 'Scotsman' a week ago, Berriedale Keith said 'It is patent that Éire is utterly unable to defend her neutrality by her own resources, which are negligible against modern methods of war … I trust it has been made clear to Mr. de Valera that, if he fails to secure the neutrality of Éire in fact, the British forces will be used forthwith for that end. This country is no longer prepared to acquiesce in inaction in face of imminent perils, and Éire is under the clearest obligation forthwith to concert effective measures of defence with Britain. If she fails to do so, our right to act is beyond doubt.'

Our alleged deficiency of arms has been the usual theme in the British campaign against us. It has been the strongest argument in favour of our accepting the presence of the British Army.

On Friday, the 'New York Post' published an article from Ludwig Lore1 in which the writer stated that Churchill should use towards Ireland the firmness which he displayed towards the French Fleet at Oran. John Steele, in a message to Mutuals, told American radio listeners that the position could be regarded as being similar to that in which Long Island was three-quarters a free nation and one quarter American. In such circumstances, said Steele, America would know what to do.

But the most serious indication of Britain's real intentions towards us is a commentary in a Secret document containing an analysis of foreign broadcasts normally circulated to Government Departments in England and to us through the High Commissioner. In the confusion and lack of cohesion which exists in British Departments, the following comment escaped the notice of the officials who usually transmit such documents to our Government:-


Defence of Éire

This question has been dealt with by American broadcasters from London. Fred Bate (N.B.C) is the only one who has given comment by describing Lord Craigavon's proposal as 'peremptory and one-sided – scarcely meriting the term offer'. If the views of one leading commentator – Major Elliott – may be taken as typical, it would appear that America's enthusiastic response to any positive act on the part of Britain would even extend to an occupation of Éire. Discussing the danger from Hitler, Major Elliott said:-

'The (Irish) Government is carrying on with outworn conceptions of being protected by its neutrality … It remains to be seen if the British Government will take vigorous steps to overcome that point of view while there is still time, if there is time.'

In considering the implications of this comment, we must remember that the B.B.C. is now controlled by the Ministry for Information, and its statements and comments, public or secret, represent the views of that Ministry.

During the weekend, the Press Association has informed the world that an agreement had been entered into between the Irish and British Governments to provide for the entry of British troops into Éire in the event of a German invasion of this country.

Notwithstanding all the assurances of the British Representative here that the British Government was playing a straight game with us, and that he was relying on us for any information which might be useful to the British in the event of

a German invasion of this country, the Assistant Deputy Adjutant General of the 53rd Division,2 now stationed in Ulster, was captured on Friday in the course of carrying out military espionage activities. The papers discovered on his person fully confirm that his mission was officially sanctioned.

Mr. Craig,3 of the British Legation here, told me yesterday morning that a Swiss Military Intelligence Officer had informed the British Intelligence that the Germans were about to violate the neutrality of Ireland and Iceland on 15th July. In subsequent conversation, he urged that I should advocate the suppression of all motor traffic. The suggestion is interesting in view of the fact that the British Press has been seizing upon statements recently made by our Ministers to exaggerate them and to create a panic in this country.

American public opinion seems to me to be the only effective weapon left to us against an early occupation by the British Army as soon as British political intrigues prove unsuccessful. It will be necessary to repeat to the American people that Irish neutrality is so fundamental a part of the Irish national position that to fail to defend it against all comers would involve the loss of our independence. It must be shown to the American people that neutrality is not a mere bargaining factor or a military expedient of the moment. No doubt, we have also to tell the American people, in view of British statements, that we are ready to accept any help against invasion by either belligerent.

A further statement by you to the American people seems to be an urgent necessity. The British are now using against us all the tricks and wiles which they commonly use against small peoples. We must, therefore, make use of our fullest resources where our people are strongest.

As each day goes by, the situation of Britain grows more serious, and no doubt the British threat to us will, up to a point, increase in gravity. The weekend Press is at last admitting the futility of hoping for a break between Russia and Germany, and the immediate danger of a complete collapse of Britain's position in the Middle East. Britain's promise to Japan to close the Burma road to further supplies for Chungking is provoking adverse comments in America. We know from our own sources that the British are finding it daily more difficult to obtain supplies from the United States, and an early complete stoppage is to be expected since the Army appears to have obtained the final say in the matter. The Certificate of the Chief of Staff that supplies of any kind are not essential for America's defence needs is now necessary before any export of arms can take place. I have instructed our Minister in the United States to bring further pressure to bear on the British Embassy, through the means available to him, so that the British Government may become eventually persuaded that anti-Irish propaganda in America, as well as any attempt to re-occupy this country, would in the end deprive them of their only remaining hope – the support of the United States.

In view of recent events, it is safer for us to make the assumption that the further and extraordinary means of communication being requested of us by the British are intended, not to meet the eventuality of a German invasion, but to facilitate the British Army in its task of re-occupation.

[initialled] J.P.W.

1 Ludwig Lore, American Marxist writer who edited the Communist Labor Party of America (CLP) publication Class Struggle in the 1920s and later the New York Volkzeitung.

2 Major E.Y. Byass, arrested with his wife by gardaí at Mullingar, Co Westmeath, in July 1940 and found to have military maps and plans in his possession.

3 James D. Craig, Assistant Secretary, British Representative's Office, Dublin (1939-45).