Volume 7 1941~1945

Doc No.

No. 333  NAI DFA Secretary's Files A50

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe

DUBLIN, 14 October 1943

Sir John Maffey came to see me on Monday, 11th October, at the suggestion of the Taoiseach who had discussed with him on Saturday the question of releasing a certain category of the British internees.

Sir John Maffey's first anxiety was to secure the release of the twenty men whose flights over this territory had been proved to be non-operational. They were to be released on the 15th October, but some difficulties had apparently arisen about the accommodation at Gormanston for the remaining eleven internees. The arrangement involved the departure on the same day of both categories of internees.

I told Maffey that we were doing our best to make the prolongation of their stay at the Curragh as brief as possible and that I myself was going to Gormanston on Tuesday with the Secretary of the Department of Defence in order to hurry on the work there.

Maffey urged very strongly that there should be a complete change of policy with regard to all the British internees. He was extremely pleased that we were going to release twenty of his men, but the retention of eleven airmen would constitute a running sore. Moreover, his Government would find it very hard to reconcile the continued internment of British airmen while we refrained from interning American airmen. There was, he said, inevitably coming a time in the near future when there would be an 'enormous' increase of aircraft, British and American, flying over us, and our difficulties would be increased a thousand-fold if we did not decide finally now to release all the British airmen and to refrain from any further action against stranded members of the R.A.F. He said he knew perfectly well that, if we interned any American airmen, we might get a very 'bloody' Note.

I felt I could not let that remark pass, and I said that, if we got a 'bloody' Note, we'd send back a Note more 'bloody' still. We did not accept the implied principle that great Powers were in any degree greater in sovereign rights or dignity than small Powers. In fact, we had noticed the great care with which American and British statesmen had emphasised this equality as the basis of the future world.

He went on to talk of partition. He said that in the inevitable discussion about partition after the war, our position would be much stronger if we could show that, during the later stages of the war at any rate, we had put British airmen in a special category and thereby shown that there was a special relationship between us. After the war we should require a great many solid arguments to overcome the military argument in favour of the retention of partition. He did not believe that there could be any neutrality in another war and it was better for us to make up our mind, if we wished to retain our independence, that in defence at least we would have to draw closer to our neighbour.

In these conversations I always emphasise the need for the solution of partition and the obstacle it constitutes to really close relations. I also emphasise how necessary a united independent Ireland would be for the formation of any kind of group of States which included Britain and America. Defence and allied matters could be settled much more easily within an international group than by a specific agreement between Britain and ourselves. Sacrifices to be accepted by all would constitute a lesser infringement of our status than particular sacrifices confined to us in our relations with Great Britain.