No. 29 NAI DFA 5/12A
Berlin, 9 April 1932
1. At no time since the establishment of the Legation has Ireland received so much notice in the German Press as during the past month. Not only do the newspapers give a prominent place to the news about Ireland communicated in the despatches of agencies and correspondents, but they also devote much space to special articles and photographs supplementing and explaining the information contained in these despatches. The same appears to be true of the Press in neighbouring countries: the cuttings recently supplied by the Legation's press-cutting agency include cuttings from Dutch and Hungarian newspapers relating to Ireland. In Germany itself the interest in Irish affairs is not confined to Berlin and the great cities, but is shared by even the smallest provincial newspapers.
2. On the whole the German Press began by treating the Irish situation in a most sensational manner. Liberal use was made of headlines tending to convey that we were on the brink of a war with England. The impression which ordinary members of the German public gained from their newspaper reading was that the new Government had thrown down the gage and was defying England to do its worst, and that that worst would quickly and inevitably take the form of economic reprisals and even open war. I could notice this clearly in the attitude of the people I met: on seeing me they at once assumed grave and sympathetic expressions appropriate, as they believed, to the state of affairs in Ireland.1 In these circumstances therefore the quiet interval which elapsed between the receipt of the British Note in Dublin and the issue of the reply thereto had an excellent effect.2 During this interval the Press appeared to receive no authentic news of any interest, and consequently was unable to keep up the atmosphere of sensation and crisis.
3. One unfortunate feature of the relations between the German Press and Ireland is that the special correspondents who report on Irish affairs live in London, and that almost every telegram printed about Ireland emanates from London. Of the innumerable despatches which I have read recently in the Berlin newspapers and in cuttings from newspapers published in other parts of Germany scarcely a dozen are given as communicated by correspondents in Dublin. The despatches from London naturally tend to be an echo of the reports in London newspapers. One could not in fairness say that the general tenor of the dispatches is unsympathetic towards Ireland, but they tend to present the situation purely as a problem for England: they suffer from the limitations necessarily imposed upon correspondents who have never been in Ireland or who have gained from a short visit only such pieces of superficial knowledge as that the names of Dublin streets are given in both Irish and English. Apart from these special correspondents, German journalists with some knowledge of Ireland have been able to sell articles to the Press because of the current interest in Irish affairs. Some of these take the form of geographical descriptions of Ireland, others give a historical summary of relations with Great Britain and others seek to make clear to their readers the course of events in the past sixteen years. It is surprising how good some of the articles are which have appeared in obscure provincial papers and how poor are some of those printed by leading papers.
4. Generally speaking the Press appears to be endeavouring to be impartial. If one paper has as a headline 'Great Britain Stands Fast', the next one will print 'De Valera Stands Fast'. Similarly 'England's Warning to Ireland' will be balanced by 'Ireland's Declaration to England'. The question of the oath is quite well explained and, as Germany has its own land settlement schemes, the land annuities question is at least partially understood. Some articles are frankly favourable to us and very encouraging, but, allowing for these pleasant exceptions, one could not truthfully say that the German Press as a whole shows any positive or active sympathy towards Ireland. It could not be described as pro-Irish. It is not only that the present crisis is treated as if it were solely a problem for England, but one cannot help feeling that some of the special articles, even when meant kindly, are rather patronising in character. They describe Ireland as a poor land, a blood-stained land, with too many ruins and bad hotels, and, while commending the gallant struggle which Irishmen have made for complete independence, they imply that economic conditions will always make us come to terms in the end.
5. A careful reading of the articles leads to the conclusion that the German journalists who best understood the Irish situation and who write with the greatest sympathy about it are those who have lived for some time in America and have there come into friendly contact with Irish people. If one can draw any lesson from the recent Press reports it would be that German journalists coming to Ireland should be well received and given an opportunity of acquiring something more than a superficial knowledge; but it would be equally important not to make an undue fuss over them, lest their tendency to patronise should be fostered.3
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.
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