No. 94 NAI DFA Rome 1921
(No. B 22720) (Copy)
Rome, 30 June 1921
I have the honour to acknowledge the letter of 27th June inst., whereby Your Eminence informs me that the Holy Father does not deem it opportune at the moment to accede to my request.
I hasten to beg Your Eminence to express to His Holiness my very humble thanks for his gracious wish to admit Mrs Gavan Duffy and her children to his august presence.
On the 20th June inst. I had the honour to call upon Your Eminence with a view to soliciting a first audience with the Sovereign Pontiff.
On the same occasion I expressed the hope that His Holiness would deign to grant me permission to present to Himself the White Book, containing the address of the Deputies of Ireland to the Deputies of the Whole World, a historic document of which I had the honour to hand to Your Eminence the Italian text.
Your Eminence declared to me once more that the Holy See was anxious to remain neutral in the conflict between Ireland and England, and deigned to undertake to communicate my request to the Holy Father, at the same time laying down the condition that the audience which I was soliciting should be of a strictly private character; that condition I hastened, under the circumstances, to accept unreservedly and explicitly, thus undertaking all the honourable obligation which it imposed on me.
In the course of that brief conversation, I explained to Your Eminence that during these last three months I had held myself aloof out of consideration for the Holy See, to which a visit from me might have seemed ill-timed at the very moment when a very generous pronouncement in favour of the Irish White Cross was being prepared. I think I should also tell Your Eminence that it is likewise out of a feeling of profound deference for the Holy See that my Government has abstained from asking the Holy See to deign to accept its Envoy Extraordinary.
Having thus scrupulously sought to avoid every line of conduct which I thought might inconvenience the Holy See, I had entertained the belief that the Holy Father would deign to accede to the respectful request which I had the honour to submit to Your Eminence on the 20th inst. The letter from Your Eminence disabuses this hope, and I shall not conceal from Your Eminence that my Government will experience the most painful disillusion upon learning that its representative finds himself prohibited from access to the august person of the Sovereign Pontiff at the present moment.
The interruption of communications is such that my courier is not likely to leave for some days, and in communicating this grave decision to my Government I should be very happy to be in a position to indicate the difficulties, unknown to me, to which Your Eminence alludes, if Your Eminence will be so good as to acquaint me with them.
Your Eminence's letter informs me that those difficulties are of such a character that in the interest of my country itself it is undesirable to occasion them. I recognise that the solicitude which the Holy See thus manifests for Ireland imposes upon me the duty of setting before Your Eminence certain considerations which prompted my action and which I may summarise as follows:
(1.) That the Irish Nation is one of the most ancient in Christendom, and the Irish Race one of the most faithful;
(2.) That, in my capacity of Envoy Extraordinary of the Government established by the will of the Irish people, I have the great honour to be the authorised spokesman in Rome of the Irish Nation and thus 'ipso facto' the spokesman of the Irish Race beyond the seas so closely bound to the Mother country;
(3.) That the non-Catholic Government of His Britannic Majesty is waging against Catholic Ireland an iniquitous war with the sole object of maintaining by force a regime which is unquestionably one of usurpation;
(4.) That that Government of usurpation enjoys the most ample means through its authorised spokesmen of communicating freely to the Holy Father its views concerning Irish affairs, while the Irish Nation does not share this precious privilege; and that, consequently, the perfect neutrality which the Holy See is concerned to maintain has become exposed to a real and obvious danger;
(5.) That we have evidence proving that the English Government has already pledged itself to give a free hand this summer to the sinister designs projected by its General Staff with a view to a supreme effort to crush resistance by intensifying still further the Terror now raging in Ireland; I may add that the peace proposals of these recent days are linked with that threat for tomorrow, to be put into operation as soon as the negotiations fail;
(6.) Lastly, that all that is necessary to ensure permanent peace is good will on the part of England; the Irish Episcopate, with its characteristic clarity, has just expressed the conviction of the country in its unanimous declaration of 21st June inst. which proclaims that 'until coercion comes to an end, and until the right of Ireland to a form of government of its own choice is recognised, there is no prospect of peace reigning amongst us, nor of the reconciliation so ardently desired by the Holy Father being accomplished.'
In these circumstances Your Eminence will understand that my country, which cultivates a special veneration and affection for the august person of the Holy Father, should have, in the Irish mind, the highest interest in keeping at Rome an authorised representative whom His Holiness would deign to receive from time to time, however private the character of those audiences for the moment; and that I desired to fulfil my duty to my country during the critical period that we are now passing through, in seeking personally to present the events of Ireland to the Holy Father, and to present them, when occasion requires it, under another light from that of our adversaries, in order to be certain that the truth could not remain unknown to Him.
I beg Your Eminence to be so good as to be the interpreter to His Holiness of my most profound loyalty and veneration and to deign to accept for Your Eminence the expression of my most respectful devotion.
G.[eorge] Gavan Duffy
The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.
The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....