740.0011 European War 1939/19412

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The Irish Minister8 called to see me this morning. The Minister said he had come in personally to hand me the text of the statement made by Mr. De Valera in Dublin on January 27 last9 and to explain that the delay in its transmission to the Department had been due to some inexplicable hold-up in the telegraph office.

The Minister then went on to express his apparently sincere and allegedly very deep disquiet because of the sending of American troops to Northern Ireland.

I asked him what the reason for this disquiet might be. He said that in the first place, it was regarded by the Irish Government and [Page 756] people as an official sanction by the United States of the partition of Ireland.

I asked the Minister how this could possibly be regarded as any official sanction by the United States of anything. I said the United States was at war and was confronted with facts. The fact was that for military reasons it was regarded as advantageous to the Allied cause to send American troops to Northern Ireland. That portion of Ireland was under the control and jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. I stated that in my judgment the action taken by this Government did not involve any question of principle whatever and could not legitimately be so construed by the Government of Eire.

The Minister then went on to say that, unfortunately, increasing belief existed on the part of his Government and people that these American troops were going to be used to attack the Irish forces. I replied that this seemed to me so fantastic as to be almost incredible. The Minister replied that he fully agreed with what I had said and that he had said this to his own Government, and to many Americans with whom he had talked, but that the fact remained that the Irish people were daily becoming more fearful that they were going to be invaded by United States forces.

The Minister talked at some length with regard to the British policy towards Ireland. He said that he thought a very useful step had been taken by the British a few days ago, according to a report he had seen in the New York Times from its Dublin correspondent saying that the British had finally sent a considerable quantity of armament and ammunition to Ireland. He added that he believed that this would do more than anything else to allay unfounded apprehensions. He once more expressed the most deep-rooted suspicions of Mr. Churchill10 and of Mr. Churchill’s plans with regard to Ireland.

I told the Minister that I would submit to the President the statements which the Minister had made to me in the event that the President wished to give me any instructions as to any specific reply to be made.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Robert Brennan.
  2. See infra.
  3. Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister.