Volume 8 1945~1948

Doc No.

No. 69 NAI DFA 419/4 Part 1

Extract from the minutes of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Relief Supplies for Europe

Dublin, 11 January 1946

A meeting of the Inter-departmental Committee on the question of relief supplies for Europe was held in the Department of Industry and Commerce on the 4th January. The following were present:-

Mr. Shanagher1 Department of Industry and Commerce
Mr. MacCarthy do.
Mr. Murray do.
Mr. Walshe Department of External Affairs
Mr. Hanna Department of Finance
Mr. Foley Department of Agriculture
Dr. Deeney2 Department of Local Government and Public Health
Mr. Carr3 Department of Defence

A statement was submitted to the Committee showing the quantities of foodstuffs which the Ministers for Industry and Commerce and Agriculture were prepared to release for the alleviation of distress in Europe and lists were also supplied of surplus Army and ARP4 stores which could similarly be made available for this purpose. Before any discussions in detail took place Mr. Hanna explained the financial position. He said that the Dáil had voted £3,000,000 for the purchase of relief supplies and, in addition, had authorised the release of Army stores (blankets and cooking equipment) to the value of approximately £86,000. So far as the Department of Finance is concerned it would have to be made clear that this was at present the limits of the authority for relief supplies. It should be understood that if any Army or ARP supplies over and above those mentioned were to be made available, they would have to be paid for out of the Vote for relief. The Department of Finance was not insisting that the original schedule of relief goods should be strictly adhered to. It could be assumed that there would be a re-Vote in the next financial year of any of the £3,000,000 not spent but if supplies not originally provided for were shipped before the 31st March, the amount of the re-Vote would be corres-pondingly reduced and might not be adequate to cater for any balances carried over, e.g. canned meat. The Inter-Departmental Committee could, of course, recommend to the Government that there should be a further vote in the next financial year for the relief of distress but he, as Department of Finance representative, could not join in such a recommendation.

The Committee then proceeded to discuss a number of matters arising on the question of relief. It was agreed that a recommendation should be made to the Government that the following supplies should be offered for relief in 1946:-


tons sugar


tons bacon


tons dried milk


tons condensed milk


tons cheese


head live cattle


head draught horses


lbs canned meat (re-allocation of quantity not supplied in 1945)

Salt beef
Salt fish
(if salt and casks available)

Surplus Army and ARP stores including approximately 175,000 blankets

Surplus textile materials held by Post Office Stores.

It was agreed that the Department of Industry and Commerce in consultation with the Department of Agriculture would prepare a draft memorandum to be submitted to the Government recommending that these supplies should be made available for relief purposes and indicating the amount of money that would be required in addition to the unspent portion of the original £3,000,000 (which would be revoted in any event).

On the question of whether supplies for 1946 should be confined to the International Red Cross Mr. Walshe stated that all the evidence and reports went to show that conditions in Western Europe were not really as bad as they were in Middle and Eastern Europe and he thought that supplies should be sent only through the International Red Cross for distribution in these areas. There would be a difficulty about canned meat since the Western European countries (France, Belgium, Holland and Italy) had been promised 2,000,000 lbs. each of canned meat which it was not possible to supply in 1945. Mr. Walshe thought that if the matter were put to those Governments they would be prepared to agree to the diversion of the supplies to the International Red Cross but possibly it might be considered that Italy should obtain her share as conditions there were bad.

There was a discussion as to whether the Irish Red Cross Society should be brought into the financial arrangements i.e. whether the Society should launch a special appeal to pay for the supplies to be released. It was agreed, however, that they would be unlikely to have sufficient funds to meet these demands in addition to their existing commitments e.g. the hospital at St. Lô, the refugee children etc. and that it would scarcely be advisable to have a situation in which they would, in effect, be appealing for funds for the relief of any Vote that might be taken. It was recommended therefore that the supplies in question should be paid for entirely out of voted monies. Dr. Deeney mentioned that the Local Authorities had substantial quantities of medical supplies held for ARP purposes and it was felt that if the Irish Red Cross Society was anxious to assist in the general relief of Europe, they could devote their funds to the purchase of such of those supplies as were found to be surplus. They might also perhaps be allowed to purchase salt fish. It was agreed generally that as the quantities of foodstuffs mentioned in the list were the maximum quantities which the Departments concerned were satisfied could be spared the Red Cross Society should not be permitted to buy any other foodstuffs (with the possible exception of salt fish) for export to Europe. On the question of secondhand clothing there was a discussion on the proposed public appeal by the Irish Red Cross Society. Mr. Walshe said that the suggestion for an expert to come from the International Red Cross in Geneva to assist in organising the collection had apparently broken down. He understood, however, that the Irish Red Cross Society could arrange for technical advice and assistance from firms like Guineys and Brown Thomas and that they were anxious to get started. It was agreed that there should be a discussion in the Department of Industry and Commerce with representatives of the Irish Red Cross Society at which the question of the proposed Joint Committee representing other parties could be examined. Mr. Deeney said that he thought he could be of assistance at this discussion and it was decided that the meeting should be held early next week.

The question of the extent to which surplus Army and ARP cloth etc. should be diverted to relief of the poor was also discussed. Mr. Carr said that out of the original 190,000 surplus blankets his Department had sold 5,000 to the St. Vincent de Paul Society and 5,000 to other charitable organisations. They also proposed to sell 5,000 to the Irish Red Cross Society in connection with their scheme for the receptance and maintenance of Polish refugee children. His Minister was satisfied to let the balance go for relief in Europe.

Mr. Carr mentioned that some 40,000 blankets were already baled and that a problem of storage was arising. It was agreed that the Department of Industry and Commerce would look into the possibility of arranging to have some of these sent in the near future to the International Red Cross but, as these would have to be paid for out of the Vote, the financial aspect would have to be examined. On Mr. Walshe's suggestion it was agreed that bales should in future be stencilled with the word 'Ireland' instead of 'Éire'.

Mr. Shanagher referred to the list of textile materials held surplus by the Post Office Stores Department and said that owing to the shortage of thread and other difficulties, it would not be possible to have these made up into garments, mattresses etc. and that they would have to be sent in the piece. This was accepted.

Mr. Shanagher also said that a request had recently been received from the International Red Cross for a quantity of wool to be sent by them to Yugoslavia to be used for home spinning. He said that while he had not had an opportunity of discussing the matter with his Minister he thought that notwithstanding the fact that we were importing wool the Minister would be prepared to agree to the release of 25,000 lbs. It was agreed that this item could be added to the list to be recommended to the Government.


Mr. Shanagher said that a request had been received through the Government Information Bureau from a private individual for particulars of the relief supplies sent to Europe. It was proposed to use this material in a newspaper article. After discussion it was agreed that such a statement should not be supplied to any private individual but that arrangements should be made for suitable publicity for what had already been done.

Mr. Shanagher also referred to offers which had been received either direct or through the Irish Red Cross Society from private individuals to supply goods for the relief of Europe. In some cases these were offered free but in most cases the persons appear to expect payment. It was agreed that no such offers should be accepted.

[matter omitted]

1 Denis P. Shanagher (1896-1956), Deputy Secretary, Department of Industry and Commerce (1945-55).

2 Dr. James Deeney (1906-94), Chief Medical Adviser, Department of Local Government and Public Health (1944-56).

3 J.B. Carr, Contracts Officer, Department of Defence.

4 Air Raid Protection.