No. 5 UCDA P150/2183

Letter from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Zurich) (Secret)

Dublin, 9 January 1937

Dear President,
I hope by the time you receive this letter we shall have heard good news about you. The Press, both English and Irish, state that Dr. Vogt1 will be able to let you come home very soon. I do not want to worry you with official matters, but I know you would prefer to be kept fully informed of things which are really important. You may consider that the following points require an early decision:

(1) Conversations between ourselves and certain British Civil Servants concerning the position of the King as established under the recent Act.
The High Commissioner has told me that you were undecided at the time of leaving London as to whether or not these conversations should take place. It seems to me that the desire of the British to have these conversations is an indication that there is something in the Act which they regard or would like to regard as incompatible with membership of the Commonwealth. On the other hand, they may want a definite assurance that the prerogatives of peace and war would still be exercised by the King. I feel that assurances of this kind are not for Civil Servants to give. We should have to say that the King's functions are exclusively confined to those set out specifically in the Act. We could not, for instance, say that he was an executive organ here, lest that expression might be used by Mr. MacDonald in the House of Commons. As you said to me some short time ago, it would be impossible for us to suggest a formula to be used in the House of Commons which would satisfy both our people and the extreme Tory Wing. Moreover, the whole suggestion of conversations is very like interference in our affairs, and if the British are really as well disposed towards us now as they say they are, they themselves on examining the Act and your statements in the Dáil should be able to find a formula which will not create difficulties for us. Moreover, it would not be expedient to tell them that Article 1 of the Constitution is going to disappear. If we did, they would be very likely to come to conclusions as to our intentions which would not be justifiable but might be used against us.

To sum up, I think, if you have no objection, that we should instruct the High Commissioner to discourage in every possible way this idea of conversations and to repeat to the British that they are, in our view, entirely unnecessary.

(2) The procedure to be adopted should the Pope1 die in the near future.
All the news from Rome indicates that, while the Holy Father may linger on even for some weeks, his death cannot be much longer postponed. A clot may get to the heart at any moment, and we want to be ready for the emer-gency. The procedure I have suggested to the Vice-President is this. A telegram would be sent in your name to Cardinal Pacelli.2 The Vice-President would at once call on the Nuncio,3 and then on the Archbishop4. He would enquire from the Archbishop when the Solemn High Mass would take place and inform him that the Cabinet would, of course, attend officially. Mr. Macaulay.5 has informed me that as at present arranged the Vatican do not expect any special foreign representatives to attend the funeral, though the situation would be different with regard to the Coronation of the new Pope, which would take place ten days after the funeral. The Vatican, however, said that owing to their special relations with the Italian State the King or the Crown Prince and Mussolini would undoubtedly be present. I have spoken to the Nuncio about the inexpediency in the new circumstances of Italy alone among States being represented. He was simply horrified when he heard that the Vatican had come to such a decision. If the other Catholic States of the world are not represented at the funeral, the old accusation of the 'Italian mission' will become stronger than ever. The Nuncio is anxious that we should do something in a discreet fashion to prevent the Vatican making such a regrettable blunder. I have spoken about this with the Vice-President, and he agrees that I should say to Macaulay that we, as a Catholic State in direct communication with the Holy See, would find it very strange if some representative from this country other than the Head of our Diplomatic Mission did not attend the funeral of the Holy Father. We can, of course, say nothing about the general principle, but I am also asking Macaulay to talk to his colleagues from Portugal, Poland and Belgium and to sound them in a discreet way as to what their views are with regard to representation. This discreet line of action will not do any harm, and it may do a great deal of good.

(3) The Form of Declaration to be made by the King at the Coronation.
The High Commissioner gave you the form now suggested by Great Britain, i.e.:

'Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the peoples of Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, of your Empire of India and of your Possessions and Territories beyond the Seas, according to the Statutes in the Parliament agreed on and their respective Laws and Customs?'

The High Commissioner told me that you seemed inclined to accept this form as a way out but had not given any final decision. The British now want a reply from all the States of the Commonwealth before the end of this month, as they say that the complete programme of the Coronation will have to be published, including the words used by the King in this Declaration. Before you went away you discussed with me the possibility of a solution which would consist, as far as we are concerned, of sending an advice in due course to the King, together with a form drawn up by us relating to his observance of our laws concerning his functions. He would sign the form, and there should then be no need for the inclusion of Ireland in the Coronation Declaration. Would you think of letting me send the British a despatch pointing out that it would be entirely inappropriate for Saorstát Éireann to be included in a declaration made by the King before the Archbishop of Canterbury and relating almost entirely to the maintenance of the Church of England? It is the first opportunity that we have had of objecting to a purely sectarian declaration made by the King, who is in some form or other King in several countries whose religion differs entirely from that of the majority of the people of the United Kingdom. The simplest solution, as far as we are concerned, would be to get all mention of Ireland withdrawn, but if we cannot do so we should insist on the reference to religion being made general. For example, the King could say that he would govern the peoples of the countries concerned according to the laws and in conformity with the religions thereof. The occasion is a very historic one, and we might possibly be criticised for having missed the opportunity of at least protesting against the one-sided character of the King's Declaration.

I hope it will not be too much trouble for you to tell Mr. Devlin6 generally what you would like me to do about these matters.

I remain, dear President, with great respect and esteem,

Yours sincerely,
[signed] J.P. Walshe

The7 news of your very early return came as a very pleasant surprise on Saturday morning. I did not send on this note as I was doubtful about its arriving in time to catch you in Zurich. However I think you may wish to have it in London. If you are coming through immediately I will postpone all action until you arrive home.

The least we must get the British to do is to separate the declaration about governing etc. from the completely different question of the established religion of England.

He could make the first declaration outside the religious service proper and the second as part of the religious service. The use of 'Ireland' in conjunction with Canada, Australia etc. in these circumstances might be a political gain for us. We could possibly use it as a recognition of the essential unity of our country.

Everything of course depends on what attitude you find over there when talking with MacDonald and the extent to which you consider it worth while making any concession at all in this matter.

11th January '37.

1 Pope Pius XI.

2 Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (1876-1958), Cardinal Secretary of State (1930-39), elected Pope Pius XII (1939).

3 Monsignor Paschal Robinson (1870-1948), Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland (1929-48).

4 Archbishop Edward J. Byrne (1872-1940), Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin (1921-40).

5 William J. B. Macaulay, Irish Minister to the Holy See.

6 Denis Devlin (1908-1959), third secretary, Department of External Affairs.

7 Handwritten postscript.

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