Volume 7 1941~1945

Doc No.

No. 12 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P100

Topics suggested by Thomas J. Kiernan for discussion at Heads of Missions Conference

Dublin, 13 September 1945

  1. The Department of External Affairs needs in its offices abroad, in addition to the normal staff of a Minister and Secretary, an officer for general duties, mainly of a routine nature, which would not take up by any means the full time of one man but who could be very fully occupied if commercial attaché work were added.1 The Department of Industry and Commerce would benefit in its Export Trade Section by having men who had had first-hand experience of the manufacture and commerce of foreign countries. It is suggested that men should be selected by the latter Department (from, roughly, the 25 to 30 years age-group and, other things equal, bachelors for preference) for secondment to our Department for 2-4-6-8 years, i.e. the position in each individual case would be reviewed every two years and the normal maximum period of secondment would be eight years. Apart from the technical advantage to our own Department, and the practical-experience advantage to Industry & Commerce, this arrangement would fit into the symmetry of our establishment; because the training of a Legation Secretary - Counsellor - Minister is of an omnibus, non-specialised kind, and these technical civil-servants from Industry & Commerce would not look to retention or promotion in External Affairs but would return to their parent Department the better fitted for promotions there. (The exceptional case might arise where one of these men would be transferred definitively to External Affairs but it would be the exception).

    External markets cannot be suddenly discovered by the normal staff of our Legations abroad, as we tried to do during the economic war; but an alert commercial attaché would help gradually to make openings in external markets.

  2. It might be considered whether we should not try to develop an External Affairs 'awareness' in Ireland. The tendency is to regard us as a decorative department. The suggestion is made, in this connection, that direct correspondence should be permitted between the Irish Tourist Board, Chambers of Commerce and such like organisations and the Commercial Attachés with whatever safeguards are necessary to avoid risk and to keep the Departments informed, e.g., correspondence should be addressed to the Attaché in duplicate and he would, when replying, send the Department a complete copy of the correspondence.2
  3. Modern Irish Literature. Arrange for translations and publication in Italian, French, Spanish, English, etc., of modern Irish short stories and novels, e.g., of Padraic O'Conaire,3 the MacGrianna brothers4 or by acting in an advisory capacity to Chomhdáil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge.5 It might be well to send one of the young men of the Department to their meetings to go into this matter of national cultural propaganda abroad. In Italy there is a great curiosity for translations of this kind and there will probably be a demand for escapist, non-war literature in the long post-war period. In Italy, also, the local output of stories is far too small to satisfy the demand. 'My New Curate' (Sheehan)6 and 'Destiny Bay' (Donn Byrne)7 are on the Rome bookstalls in Italian translations.8
  4. It is suggested that the National Film Institute should be commissioned to make a 30-minute film of 'A day in the Life of Catholic Ireland'. Apart from the national prestige advantage this, shown in parish halls in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Germany, would have a good moral influence on the young generations, especially in the former totalitarian countries. If it were an attractively constructed and well-photographed film, it might be got to pay its cost, especially if it were taken up in USA and the overseas Dominion-States.9
  5. Radio. It should be the duty of the head of each mission abroad to cultivate the confidence of the heads of the national broadcasting organisations and the news editors of the stations.10 Scores and parts of any Irish music arrangements required for special programmes should be provided by the Department on loan from Radio Éireann. It should be possible to arrange St. Patrick's Day programmes - an hour of music and prose and poetry - with the co-operation of Radio Éireann. In case it should not be convenient to expect the foreign station to pay the programme cost, an outside estimate of £50 an hour for scripts and performing rights would have to be provided for.

    It is important for the offices abroad to make as much use as they can of the radio for national cultural exposition - as well as, on the negative side, taking the offensive against the crude stage-Irish and what is worse in the long run, the cheap foreign-composed pseudo-Irish ballad.

  6. Newspapers. Some of the Embassies and Legations at the Holy See send out press notices, mainly straight propaganda. This is no good. Each newspaper has to be separately handled and given individual attention. Know the editor personally, get him to lunch in the Legation, don't get to business until the acquaintance is fairly developed and then offer the material as being perhaps of use to the editor but that if not of use, no bones are broken if he doesn't use it. The cavalier attitude to newspaper men goes a lot farther than the official attitude.

    Still on the initiative of the offices abroad - their material can often be made up by linking different news-items appearing in the Dublin newspapers even considerably separated in time, e.g., a current story about Family Allowances can be linked with a brief explanation of the scheme and its purpose.

    Turning to the initiative from headquarters, could the Government Information Bureau be incorporated into the Department of External Affairs? If not, could it develop an External Affairs section to which the cadets and junior secretaries would be lent for 5 or 6 hours a week to learn how to handle press-contacts and to draft bulletin-material to be sent to offices abroad after the necessary re-writing by the Director of the Bureau?

    Apart from the rare occasions of Elections, a new President, etc., what is of use to the offices abroad is not so much what newsmen call 'hot news' as what they call 'a story'. So that a good monthly string-together of para-graphs sent from the Bureau is quite enough - there is no need for a weekly bulletin. The news we want (certainly for Vatican Radio and the Osservatore Romano) is news indicating a trend, a social development; and the time element ('hot' news) is of secondary importance.11

    To supply Irish news to the news departments of the broadcasting stations, it would be necessary for the Legation to send, occasionally, specially-prepared very brief paragraphs and generally the only news likely to be acceptable would be Irish news relating to world affairs or to the country of broadcast, i.e. for Canada, Irish news in some way related to Canadian affairs. If an Irish short-wave station is developed, there would no longer be any point in a Legation issue of news to radio authorities.

  7. Short-wave broadcasting from Ireland. In the early days of broadcasting the technical side was of major importance and the Post Office engineers were the obvious choice for a State-controlled service. Broadcasting has long outgrown that stage and the service in Ireland is no longer happily placed within the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. An alternative would be the Department of Education, but it is generally found that broadcast lessons can be only the merest minor help in schools and direct teaching by radio is a tiny percentage of programme time in broadcasting. With the establishment of an Irish short-wave transmitter, the transfer of the broadcasting service into the Department of External Affairs might be considered.12 Rules of guidance, however detailed, will not be sufficient to control the day to day planning of short-wave programmes worth listening to. Such programmes must be able to stand in competition beside the local programmes; and anything in the nature of a rutted continuation of the same general type of programme, such as we used in the testing days, will be wasting money. The Director of Broadcasting and his programme executives working on short-wave programmes would need to be officed in the same building as the Secretariat of External Affairs; and since the programme executives working on short-wave programmes will have to be the same men who prepare and handle the home programmes, it seems conducive that the whole programme service should have to be transferred under External Affairs. This would not affect the engineering side or the location of the studios and rehearsal rooms.

    Offices abroad should encourage the writing of opinions to them on the short-wave programmes and, through Irish groups, encourage also the formation of informal listening-groups. A practical illustration of this is as follows - Radio debates, programmes like the Brains Trust, are very attractive to listeners. Suppose our short-wave transmitter broadcasts a twenty minute discussion of some live Irish topic and the programme is known in advance to a literary or debating society, the 20-minute broadcast, listened to in community, could be the introduction to the continuation of the discussion by the Society's Members, and they would have the Irish 'low-down' on the subject in the introductory broadcast which would also set the tone of the subsequent discussion. The Legations could do useful work by encouraging amongst Irish sympathisers the formation of such listener-groups.

  8. 'He must be a success abroad - we never hear anything about him' a friend said to me recently about the head of one of our Missions. Has the time not come to allow our democracy to know something of our external affairs? to develop at home an awareness of the work of External Affairs, and to try to go a little way towards our position in the 7th and 8th centuries when we were nearer to Europe, in spirit, than now. We gave then, and took no contamination and the need today is as great to give again.13

    When an Irish representative abroad delivers an address, makes a speech at some function, the script could be sent in advance for release to the Irish newspapers and Radio Éireann in due time. Would it not be good to enable the newspapers to publish e.g. that the Irish Minister at the Holy See entertained to lunch such a Cardinal or Bishop or a foreign diplomat? Might not the Ministers abroad be encouraged to send non-copyright photographs of their more important social gatherings? The Department seems to be afraid of publicity although we probably have less secret diplomacy than any Foreign Office.

1 Marginal note by Frederick H. Boland: 'The new foreign service clerks should go some distance towards this'.

2 Marginal note by Frederick H. Boland: 'There is no virtue in this suggestion which is contrary to general practice of other countries'.

3 Padraic Ó Conaire (1883-1928), Irish language writer and journalist.

4 Seosamh, Séamus 'Máire' (Ó Grianna) and Seán Mac Grianna, three brothers from a family of Irish language writers.

5 The co-ordinating body for voluntary Irish language organisations.

6 Patrick Augustine Sheehan (1852-1913); Catholic priest and novelist; My New Curate was published in 1899.

7 Donn Byrne (1889-1928), writer; Destiny Bay was published in 1928.

8 Marginal note by Frederick H. Boland: 'I wonder whether there is enough good modern Irish literature available to make this proposal worth following up?'

9 Marginal note by Frederick H. Boland: 'There is an obvious difficulty about producing such a film out of public funds. But means might be found of getting it produced by the National Film Institute.'

10 Marginal note by Frederick H. Boland: 'Certainly!'.

11 Marginal note by Frederick H. Boland: 'I wonder whether other heads of missions agree about this'.

12 Marginal note by Frederick H. Boland: 'It would be fatal!'.

13 Marginal note by Frederick H. Boland: 'Something might be done about this'.