No. 11 UCDA P67/94(i)/p>

Letter from Seán MacEntee to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)

Dublin, 18 March 1932

A Chara,
I venture to submit that the time is now opportune to pursue a more vigorous diplomatic policy in the Department of External Affairs. It seems to me that we should endeavour so far as we can to isolate Great Britain, not merely amongst the States not members of the Commonwealth Group, but even the latter itself.

As the first step in this direction I would suggest the appointment of direct representatives to among others, Canada, Australia and South Africa. One of the advantages of this course would be that it would enable us to some extent possibly to short circuit the Ottawa Conference. A second advantage would be that in any negotiations which might arise with Great Britain in regard to the Oath or other Constitutional questions we might be able to secure in advance pledges of support from these States. As against this there is also the possibility that we might receive a refusal of support, which would undoubtedly hamper us. A third reason for taking this step is that we might possibly be able to form an Anti-British block inside the Commonwealth, for as long as we might be compelled to remain there. The exchange of representatives by States inside the Commonwealth would naturally make Britain so uneasy as to bring her to the point at which she might willingly see us secede altogether from the Group.

The principal objection which I think would be raised to the proposal to exchange representatives with Commonwealth States would be on the grounds of expense. As against this, however, we have to remember the large Irish population in Australia, the substantial Irish section in Canada, and the similarity in outlook between ourselves and South Africa. If we could use all these influences to check British policy, which is no way consistent with the political and economic interests of any of these States, we could make ourselves a very formidable disintegrating force within the Group.

I think that we have an equally favourable opportunity for a more vigorous diplomatic policy abroad. In my opinion the failure of Hitlerites to elect their candidate to the Presidency1 leaves the way still clear for a rapprochement between France and Germany. The present French Prime Minister,2 I believe, favours such a development, and there is no doubt as to the attitude of Hindenburg and Brüning3 in regard to it. We are in a favourable position to bring it about. We have strong historical ties with France, and the French themselves are not disposed to underrate our importance from a naval point of view. We have more recent, but not less stronger associations with Germany, which country in latter years has also realised our Naval importance. I think that if we definitely decide to, we could do a good deal to bring these two countries together and to lay the foundation of a European block, which would practically neutralise British influence on the Continent, and in co-operation with America in the Atlantic. In view of the reconciliation of the Papacy with the Italian State and our attachment to the former we might even be able to secure the adherence of Italy.

The end of the policy outlined above may be far off, but if we made even a tentative start, we could, using all the powers and influence which our racial connection with the populations of the Dominions and Great Britain itself affords us, some day be in a position to stand on an equal footing with Great Britain either inside or outside the Commonwealth group. It seems to me that this particular moment, when economic distress in Great Britain is so great, and when in Australia and Canada there is great dissatisfaction with British financial and economic policy generally, would be a particularly favourable time to inaugurate a more vigorous policy.

Is mise,
[copy letter unsigned]
Aire Airgid

1 Paul von Hindenburg was re-elected as German President in the 1932 election, defeating a number of other candidates including Adolf Hitler.

2 André Tardieu (1876-1945), French Prime Minister (Nov 1929-Feb 1930, March-Dec 1930, Feb-June 1932.)

3 Heinrich Bruning (1885-1970), German Chancellor (1930-32), left Germany in 1934, professor at Harvard University (1937-52), Professor of Political Science at the University of Cologne (1955-70).

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