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

No. 401

Sir: I have the honor to report that on July 6, 1942, at my request, I was received by Mr. de Valera. The memorandum of this conversation is hereto attached.15 I have sent him a copy of it for his files.

I found the Prime Minister in a sour, discouraged mood, evidently laboring under some acute apprehension of hostile conspiracy. As set forth in the memorandum of conversation, it appeared that the somewhat highly emphasized publicity regarding the completion of our naval base at Londonderry within six months excited his fears. He said in effect that he considered it a plot to invite an attack on Irish territory regardless of the lives of Irish non-combatants. As shown in the memorandum, I explained to him that this apprehension was groundless and we then passed on to a discussion of the secret liaison between the British Commanding General in the North and the General Staff of the Irish Army. The memorandum covers this discussion.

Deeming it desirable to have some non-controversial topic always under discussion with the Prime Minister, I opened the question which I had discussed in London with Mr. Loyd Steere, Agricultural Attaché, and Colonel MacKeachie, United States Army Purchasing Agent, of increasing Irish pig production to the end of obtaining an exportable surplus which could be purchased for the maintenance of American troops in Northern Ireland. There seemed to be very little promise of obtaining any results.

On the day following my conversation with the Irish Prime Minister, I had a talk with Sir John Maffey, the British Representative, and told him in detail what had been said during my conversation with the Irish Prime Minister relating to the subject of liaison.

Sir John Maffey said he entirely agreed that the American Command should participate in the personal relation with the Irish High Command, but was doubtful whether it was best for me to have informed Mr. de Valera that the meeting was about to take place. He felt that it would have been better to have let General Franklyn,16 General Hartle, and General McKenna work it out between them; that Mr. de Valera’s attitude had been that he did not want to know [Page 763] anything about the matter, and that General McKenna also wished to keep the political side of the Government out of it. I told Sir John that it was not that I had any lack of confidence in General Franklyn; that, as he knew, from the time American troops arrived in Ireland and the possibility was discussed of an American General assuming command of the area, I had strongly recommended to my Government that, in that event, the British Officers who had inaugurated the liaison be retained as a mission at least until the relation had been taken over in a satisfactory manner. My course in informing Mr. de Valera as I had of General Hartle’s readiness to meet General McKenna was due to the fact that I considered it would be a grave mistake on my part not to give him that information regardless of whether or not he wished to receive it; that I did not wish ever to give Mr. de Valera the opportunity to disavow all knowledge of the liaison and to charge me, and possibly also Sir John Maffey, with tampering with his General Staff without his knowledge.

There are several reasons why I believe that this point of view is sound: (1) If General Franklyn should be ordered to another command, as is not unlikely, the liaison which, in a sense, is now his personal property would disappear with him. If, however, General Hartle enters the picture at once, he would be in a position to carry it on; (2) I think the importance of the American military effort in Northern Ireland demands recognition and participation in such a relation, regardless of the preferences of the Irish Prime Minister, and especially because of his protest against our presence there; (3) I do not anticipate that the Irish Prime Minister will make any trouble, for the reason that to do so would amount to an affront, which I think he would fear to make. I have observed in my relations with him that he tells me that there are “very grave difficulties and objections” in the path of any course, it only means that he would prefer another course; not that he is prepared to make a stand on the matter; (4) I think it is important that recognition of the American Military Command be on the record, for the reason that the Irish Prime Minister, under pressure from the Axis Powers or from his own anti-British and pro-Axis groups, might conceivably disavow the liaison—a thing which he cannot now do without being confronted by the memorandum of the conversation hereto attached; (5) I believe that delay in bringing the Americans into the picture would augment the difficulty of bringing them in, since I think we must face the fact that Irish-American relations are more apt to deteriorate than to improve.

Respectfully yours,

David Gray
  1. Not printed.
  2. Lt. Gen. Harold E. Franklyn, Commander of British Troops in Northern Ireland.