The Irish Minister ( Brennan ) to the Secretary of State

The Minister of Ireland presents his compliments to The Honourable the Secretary of State, and has the honour to refer to the proposed purchase by the Irish Government of two ships from the American Government, which matter has been handled in such an extraordinary manner that it has now, after four months negotiations, reached an impasse to the bitter disappointment of the Irish Government.

On May 20th, President Roosevelt made a public statement to the effect that the United States Government would make available by sale or charter two cargo ships to the Irish Government.

The State Department at once showed active interest in the matter and throughout the subsequent negotiations they maintained that interest, and gave considerable help.

The Minister in his first interview with the Maritime Commission made it clear that the Irish Government desired to purchase these ships.

As a result of various interviews in which Mr. Joseph Brennan, Irish Vice Consul in New York acted for the Legation, the Commission agreed on June 9th to sell to the Irish Government two ships, the West Neris and the West Hematite, which were then being reconditioned at New Orleans, at a price not exceeding $70 per dead weight ton.

On the strength of these arrangements the Irish Government had the vessels inspected, and sent from Ireland two crews to man them. These crews arrived at New Orleans before the repairs were finished. Also the Irish Government had incurred the expense of degaussing the ships. Meanwhile the method of payment had been the subject of prolonged discussions between the Legation and the State Department on the one hand, and between the State Department and the Maritime Commission on the other, but these discussions did not hold up matters because the ships were not yet ready.

On August 23rd, a contract for the sale of the two ships was submitted by the Maritime Commission to the Legation for signature. This contract mentioned no price but stated that the ships were to be paid for in dollars or Irish currency. The Irish Consul General who had been authorized to sign on behalf of Irish Shipping Limited raised the points that there was no warranty of seaworthiness in the contract, and that the price of $70 per ton should be included.

While these points were being discussed it transpired that the Maritime Commission discovered the contract was illegal and that they could not sell except by competitive tender or by Lease Lend. They offered to deal with the matter under the provisions of the Lease Lend [Page 248] Act.36 This presented a new angle which had not been discussed with, the Irish Government, and it was necessary to get their instructions. This was on August 29th.

On September 3rd, before final instructions had arrived from the Irish Government, the Minister learned that the ships were being requisitioned for a voyage to the Canal Zone. The Minister protested against this procedure, and ultimately the requisitioning was cancelled. The Minister on September 5th saw the Maritime Commission and agreed to purchase under Lease Lend at the figure originally agreed upon, viz., $70 per ton. The Minister signed the necessary documents on the following day. The Maritime Commission on the same day arranged that we should take over the ships at noon on Monday, the 8th of September. Mr. Joseph Brennan travelled to New Orleans and signed on the crews on that date. He also signed a receipt as custodian for the ships pending the execution of the formal agreement. The Irish Government effected insurance on the ships on the same day.

On the 17th of September the Minister was informed by the State Department that the President had refused to sign the necessary directive to the Lend Lease authorities, and had directed the Maritime Commission to charter the ships to an American shipping company for charter to the Irish Government.

This news came as a bitter disappointment to the Irish Government who had come to the conclusion that the deal was at last satisfactorily concluded. In fact the Minister for Industry and Commerce had expressed in the Dail a few days before his appreciation of the action of the Government of the United States in transferring the ships.

Under these circumstances the Minister would be glad if the Secretary of State would intervene so as to have the original plan carried out, and instructions issued for the immediate transfer and release of the ships in accordance with the arrangements previously agreed to.

  1. Approved March 11, 1941; 55 Stat. 31.