No. 76 NAI DFA 219/2

Report from Leopold H. Kerney to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Madrid, 21 November 1939

Frank RYAN. Your 244/8B

I had a conversation with the Foreign Minister1 on Monday 20th November and took the opportunity to refer to this matter. The Minister reached for a portfolio containing papers which he said were for discussion with Franco the following day; one of these was a memorandum relating to Ryan – apparently the one whose existence I have already reported; I had only a brief glance at it, but attached to it were numerous press cuttings which I had supplied to Blanca O'Donnell; he produced it to prove that he was not overlooking the matter; he said that he saw Franco every Tuesday and I even gathered that he had raised this question on every such occasion, but so far without success; the moment was not yet perhaps quite ripe, there were about 80,000 judgments pending but there would be measures of clemency and he was going to seize the first such opportunity; Fusset and others could now be relied on; and he remarked, laughingly, that he was organising a 'complot'; there were about 400 foreign prisoners in all; he did not think there would be time to obtain satisfaction ahead of the proposed trade agreement. When I asked him what on earth could account for Franco's hesitation, he revealed to me that there was not in fact unanimity in Ireland on this question, and that Franco had received a great many letters from Ireland saying that Ryan was a dangerous man and begging Franco not to release him; I pointed out, as I had done on other occasions, that Ryan had political enemies, but that, even supposing it to be true that he were a dangerous character, it was scarcely logical that Franco should be expected to hold as prisoner in Spain an Irishman who might be deemed to be dangerous in Ireland; I asked Beigbeder to use the argument that, if there was any gaoling to be done where an Irishman was concerned, the gaoler ought really to be de Valera rather than Franco. I pointed out once more that de Valera (we were talking in a friendly intimate way, omitting titles) was anxious to secure the release of Ryan, as an Irishman with a national record, quite irrespective of the fact that, once back in Ireland, he might conceivably be an opponent of the Government in every way; that possibility did not in the slightest affect the Government's attitude in this matter; I went on to explain to Beigbeder the mistaken policy of the I.R.A. in Ireland, as it would be a preparation for anarchy if violence were tolerated whilst peaceful methods were available. I suggested in fact that Ryan's outlook might very well approximate to that of the I.R.A., so that our concern for his fate was completely disinterested and inspired by higher motives.

Beigbeder gave me the interesting piece of information that it had been found that there was no truth whatever in the accusation which had been framed against Ryan of having commanded firing squads.

It is clear now that the opposition to Ryan's release comes from Ireland and is of that secret underhand nature which I have feared all along; and which can only have received an impetus from the occasional publicity resorted to by Ryan's friends.

Knowing that the Foreign Minister and others near him are anxious to secure her brother's release and that I myself have this case constantly in mind and will lose no opportunity that may present itself, I trust that Miss Ryan will arm herself with whatever further patience may be necessary; I hope to be able to visit Burgos on Sunday 3rd December, to bring Ryan some things which he needs and to let him know that we are hammering away and hope to succeed, sooner or later.

[signed] L.H. Kerney

1 Ramón Serrano Súñer (1901-2003), brother-in-law of Franco, Spanish Foreign Minister (1940-2).

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