No. 22 NAI DFA Secretary's Files A20/2

Extract from a memorandum from Leopold H. Kerney to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

San Sebastian, 14 September 1939

Further to my minute of 1st inst.,1 I telephoned to Burgos on 9th inst. and asked for the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Barcenas came to the 'phone; he enquired as to the purpose of my telephone call; I told him that the Minister had requested that I should telephone to him; he said the Minister was busy and again asked what was the matter I wished to discuss. I replied – 'Ryan'; he asked me to hold the line; a couple of minutes later Beigbeder's2 Chef de cabinet (Barcenas' son) came to the 'phone and said that the Minister had not yet got a reply, but hoped to have one in two or three days' time. I said that I would wait to hear from the Minister.

The Duchess of Tetuan3 is cooperating with me and taking a very friendly interest in Ryan; in full agreement with myself, she went to Burgos and was able to pay a visit to Ryan on 12th September, Beigbeder having given her the necessary special authorisation and also providing her with an official car to go from Burgos to the prison. It would be good policy to allow it to appear in the press that the Duchess of Tetuan visited Frank Ryan in Burgos Central Prison and is anxious to assist in securing his release at an early date, knowing that his continued imprisonment causes much concern in Ireland.

On 13th September the Duchess gave me an account of her visit to Burgos; Beigbeder told her that he had brought Ryan's case to Franco's notice 'à plusieurs reprises', but that Franco had given no decision; she asked him whether it would be advisable for her to see Franco, and he replied that 'anything more that might be done would be all to the good.' I have asked her to seek an audience with Franco as soon as possible, and she intends to do so through the medium of Beigbeder. She expects to leave for Madrid in the car of the Finnish Minister on 18th September but will return from Madrid to Burgos at any moment if she can get an appointment; if this can only be fixed after her return to San Sebastian I have offered to put my car at her disposal for any such visit to Burgos. I have also asked her to make a point of seeing Fusset,1 but not before her audience with Franco, Ryan's chief enemy from the start, and whose mind was poisoned against him by Gunning2 and others; Hodgson3 did his best to prejudice Fusset (and also Lopez Pinto)4 against Ryan, as being a dangerous communist and an assassin; the Duchess has been given all necessary arguments by me, and she has herself formed a very favourable impression of Ryan from her conversation with him; she has even discussed with him ways and means of cooperating later on in bringing Spain and Ireland closer together; Ryan told her (in confidence, of course) that he had made a mistake in going to Spain, but that he could not make any confession of that kind before a Tribunal. The importance of her cooperation with me lies in the fact that she enjoys the esteem and friendship of the present Minister for Foreign Affairs, that, as daughter of the former Duke of Tetuan, she is practically certain to be given an audience by Franco, and that, as a Spaniard, she can stress the importance, from the Spanish point of view, of doing as we want.

The Director of the prison in Burgos told the Duchess that she could visit Frank Ryan there as often as she wished; I have prepared a parcel of foodstuffs etc. for him, and she will take this to the prison, probably on 18th September, on her way through Burgos to Madrid.

[signed] L.H. Kerney

1 Not printed.

2 Juan Beigbeder Atienza (1888-1957), Spanish Foreign Minister (Aug.-Oct. 1939).

3 Blanca O'Donnell, the Duchess of Tetuan.

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