740.0011 European War 1939/7908: Telegram

The Minister in Ireland ( Gray ) to the Secretary of State

14. For the Secretary and Under Secretary. Situation generally unchanged except for indications of undercurrent of bitter resentment against the President for his references to Ireland and for our attitude of aid to Great Britain.7

January 22 had a conversation with the Prime Minister at this [his] request. He told me he now was convinced that Germans would invade Ireland and he intended to tell his Cabinet that they must face this situation realistically. He thanked me for copy of memorandum of conversation of January 6, reference my telegram No. 7 January 8 [7], which I had sent him and explained that he had not communicated with me by mail about it. I stated that I understood that he was the responsible head of a state and his written word went on record whereas what I said or wrote if beyond my Government’s instructions or tending to make mischief could and would be disavowed. He replied that I expressed my thoughts in the memorandum rather than his which he supposed was natural but that the purport was to make himself out wrong and me right. I answered “If you had recorded the conversation it would have made me wrong and you right”. We both laughed. The only specific objection he made was to my making him say that he wished for the downfall of Hitlerism as much as I did. He denied that he ever used even in such “propaganda words” lest they should slip out and into public addresses. He repeated that they were going to need wheat and arms intimating that he would like to get them from us and declared that the British were very foolish not to arm them as it would make Britain’s rear safe. I answered that I had never heard that the British withheld arms except because they needed them for themselves but I added that in view of my impression [Page 218] of majority feeling in Ireland if I was approached about arms from Washington in the absence of instructions to the contrary I would not recommend that he get them without undertakings beyond what I understood that he had given. He declared that he had promised Britain that her arms would at no time be used against her unless she were an aggressor. I replied that was not enough and said to the Premier “suppose the Germans invade and you ask for British aid and together you expell the enemy. Your neutrality has been violated. You are in the war. The British have saved you and wish to remain and to use air and naval bases undertaking to withdraw at the end of hostilities. If you refuse to grant these facilities and they insist on staying, do they become aggressors against whom you would use their arms?”

He replied [“]the British have never asked for such an undertaking and I would not make any promise as to what I would do if such a situation arose.[”] He made the point that the United States entered the last war not as an ally but an associate. I commented that I thought that this was a distinction without a difference and that we saw the war through to a victorious end; that he naturally could act as he pleased but unless he gave some undertaking to meet a situation of such a nature as I pictured I personally could not take the responsibility of recommending his getting arms from the United States.

He then began to talk about his rights. I told him that the way I saw [it?] at present the only right that [he?] and myself enjoyed was to believe in our religion and to be burned for it if need be. Every other right depended upon force to maintain it and that he was steering a very [apparent omission] course if he thought otherwise. He called my views the greatest exponent of force he has ever met. I made it clear that it was a case of facing realities.

Curious but almost friendly, I grow fond of Mr. de Valera as we argue. I said to him I would be glad to cooperate with him on any specific proposal that was reasonable. Memorandum of talk by pouch.8

  1. Reference here is to address of President Roosevelt delivered December 29, 1940, Department of State Bulletin, January 4, 1941, p. 3.
  2. Not printed.