HC Deb 08 June 1943 vol 390 cc513-5
11. Sir William Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether his attention has been called to a recent statement by Mr. De Valera, in the Dail, that although the Irish shipping company's vessel "Irish Oak" was aware that a German submarine was in the vicinity of a British convoy no information to this effect was given to the convoy in question, as Mr. De Valera stated it was no business of Eire's ships to give information to anyone; and whether, as Eire is largely dependent for much of its supplies on exports from overseas in British protected convoys, he will ask the Eire Government to notify British convoys in future in similar circumstances?

The Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Emrys-Evans)

The facts of this incident are that a British convoy was aware of the presence of an enemy submarine and also of the presence of the "Irish Oak," which was subsequently sunk. No communication between the latter ship and the convoy was made or would, in any case, have served any purpose, since the convoy was fully aware of the position. No doubt the submarine preferred to attack and sink an unprotected Eire ship instead of attacking a protected British convoy. The answer to the last part of the Question is in the negative. The object of the statement by Mr. De Valera, to which the Question refers, was no doubt to dispose of any possible German allegation that the sinking by a German submarine of the Eire ship in question was justified on the ground that it had given information about German submarine movements. It would evidently be useless to ask the Government of Eire to authorise any action which they would consider unneutral.

Sir W. Davison

In view of the action and inaction in this and other matters on the part of Mr. De Valera, which has involved the loss of hundreds of British and American lives, ought not some vigorous protest to be made by the British Government to the Eire Government on the matter?

Mr. Emrys-Evans

I have pointed out that it is useless to ask the Eire Government to take any action which they think will be unneutral, and any protest, however undesirable the position may be, would not have any effect.

Professor Savory

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the statements in the Question of the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) are fully borne out in the Official Report of the Debate in Eire which I hold in my hand, and may I ask the hon. Gentleman to call the attention of the Prime Minister of Eire to the fact that British ships are taking to Eire our best tea and our best coal at the risk of the lives of British sailors?

Major Petherick

Would it not be wise policy to tell the Government of Eire that their imports and exports must be carried exclusively in Irish ships?

Mr. Emrys-Evans

It is impossible to discuss the whole question of trade relations with Eire by Question and Answer.

Sir W. Davison

In any event will a memorandum be sent to the Eire Government expressing the strong feelings in this matter felt on all sides in this House and throughout the country and in America?