Memorandum by the Acting Director of the Office of European Affairs (Hickerson) to the Secretary of State
Our Minister to Ireland, Mr. Gray, has recently been up to Belfast, where he saw the Governor General of Northern Ireland11 and the Prime Minister.12 The Prime Minister asked for Mr. Gray’s view as to the feasibility of a joint United States–Northern Ireland memorial to American troops in Northern Ireland during the war. Mr. Gray discouraged the idea, pointing out that a joint enterprise between the United States Government and Northern Ireland would be susceptible to political attack by Irish extremists in the United States.
He did not discourage the establishment of such a memorial by Northern Ireland alone, however, and pointed out that it would doubtless be well received by the American public.
Soon getting around to the Partition issue, Mr. Gray restated our position that we wanted nothing to do with the controversy. The Prime Minister asked him if it would be regarded as an unfriendly act if the Northern Irelanders sent over a deputation to counteract the effects of any group which the Irish Nationalists might send over. Mr. Gray replied that no one could blame them for meeting fire with fire, but that we would prefer that both sides refrain from using our country as a debating ground. The Prime Minister assured Mr. Gray that he would not send any one unless the other side did.[Page 119]
Mr. Gray returned to Dublin and soon saw the President of Eire, Mr. O’Kelly. Mr. Gray took the opportunity to point out to the President that all talk of coercing Northern Ireland was impracticable, that everyone knew that the responsibility for any spilling of Irish blood would be on Eire, and that world opinion would take a poor view of it. Mr. Gray added that we would not regard with favor their sending Mr. Maxwell13 or any other Irish Nationalist over to the United States to agitate on the Partition question, and that if it were done Ireland would get some bad publicity because the American people did not like Ireland’s stand during the war. Mr. Gray went on to say that as far as he could discover, even among important Catholic American public men there was no sympathy with the effort to inject this issue into American politics, and they, as well as others, deplored the prospect of a Catholic-Protestant duel being forced upon us. The President expressed agreement with Mr. Gray’s views, and said he was personally opposed to Maxwell’s going.
Mr. Gray was very impressed by the understanding view which Mr. O’Kelly seemed to have of our position. He detects a more tolerant and reasonable attitude toward the Partition issue in general—much more so than a year ago—and feels there is a greater realization on both sides that the matter may only be settled satisfactorily by conciliatory measures. Mr. Gray is becoming really hopeful that the Partition issue will not be injected into American politics.