740A.5 MSP/1–1152

No. 709
Memorandum of Conversation, by William L. Hamilton of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs

  • Subject: Failure To Reach MSA Bilateral Agreement with Ireland


  • Ambassador Francis P. Matthews
  • BNA—Mr. William L. Hamilton
[Page 1550]

Ambassador Matthews expressed considerable impatience with the Irish Government for its refusal to accept our position on the MSA Bilateral. Irish objections, he said, were directed to the philosophy of the Act, and no drafting exercise short of complete elimination of any statement of adherence to the principles would have been successful.

He said that the present government was looking backward and seemed more firmly committed to neutrality than its predecessor, the Costello–MacBride regime, with whom he was certain the United States could have reached agreement as easily as it did with the ECA Bilaterals.

He said he had had a feeling through the negotiations that Foreign Secretary Aiken did not have the full sympathy of his staff in the negotiations. Nothing was said, of course, but he believed they favored an agreement at our minimum terms.

The Ambassador said he anticipated further approaches from the Irish on the purchase of arms. They saw no reason why they couldn’t buy what they needed to train their forces, perhaps including a few machine tools for local manufacture of some small items. Ambassador Matthews said it was his opinion that they wouldn’t be able to finance all of the requirements but that we might determine their needs, let them buy what they could finance, the United States to contribute the balance.

I asked the Ambassador if he didn’t think it would be difficult for the U.S. to furnish arms even on a reimbursable basis in view of their inability to sign the bilateral. There was no close relationship, perhaps, but could we provide arms on any basis to a country which could not make a simple affirmative declaration of its adherence to the collective security concept. Ambassador Matthews said he presumed it would be difficult, but I am not sure that the thought had occurred to him before.

Speaking in more general terms, the Ambassador said he was afraid there was little possibility of Ireland looking “outward” and taking a broader view of its international position under the present government whose thinking is still dominated by the “Uprisings” in which so many of its leaders participated. Neutrality has a strong grip on the country. Irish adherence to neutrality isn’t emotional to the degree it is with the Swedes, but this element does exist in their attitude. War would change all this, of course. If De Valera left the scene, he said the present government would break in several directions. The younger generation of politicians, he believes, are more internationally-minded and under their direction Irish attitudes might change considerably.