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Saturday 25 November 2017

JFK diary from visit to Ireland in 1945 brands de Valera a 'lunatic'

Travels: John F Kennedy, pictured here in 1945, wrote his diary notes the same year during a trip to post-war Europe after his ambassador father Joseph got him a reporting job with newspaper company, Hearst
Travels: John F Kennedy, pictured here in 1945, wrote his diary notes the same year during a trip to post-war Europe after his ambassador father Joseph got him a reporting job with newspaper company, Hearst
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

The American ambassador to Ireland considered Eamon de Valera to be a "lunatic" although he was also "sincere and incorruptible".

This is according to a remarkable diary written by a young John F Kennedy when he visited Ireland - the country of his heritage - in July 1945, a year before starting with his run for Congress.

Auction: The diary will be sold this week in Boston, America
Auction: The diary will be sold this week in Boston, America

The future US President, who was just 28 years old at the time, was on a post-college "fact-finding" visit to a number of European countries.

His multimillionaire father Joseph Kennedy, who was an ambassador, had got him a job as a reporter with US newspaper chain Hearst.

Now a numbers of diaries and other written material compiled by JFK during his trip are to be auctioned with an estimated price tag of $200,000.

Kennedy stayed with the US minister to Ireland, the controversial David Gray, during his visit.

"Mr Gray's opinion of de Valera was that he was sincere, incorruptible, also a paranoiac and a lunatic," he wrote.

"His promise is that the partition of Ireland is indefensible.

"He kept strict neutrality even towards the simplest United States demand," concluded Kennedy on Ireland's position during World War II, which had just ended.

"Mr Gray admits that Mr de Valera was not any more friendly to the Germans than he was to us. He does not think German submarines were aided from Ireland, at least with the knowledge of Mr de Valera, although there were many German sympathisers."

He said Mr Gray "quoted the Cardinal in 1940 as having said 'he would take Germany as soon as England'.

"The Cardinal believes that Ireland was created by God - a single island and people - and partition is therefore an offence to God.

"Gray says the island was maintained by the British during the war - gasoline, shoes, and coal - all were British."

Kennedy also wrote that the US ambassador believed Ireland's civil war "was caused by the pride" of then Taoiseach de Valera.

He said de Valera's "constitutional proposals" were very similar to those favoured by a majority of the Dail. Yet he split the country over the issue."

Part of his diary was written under the heading of "finance" and Kennedy concluded: "Many Irishmen feel that it is a great mistake to be so closely tied up with the sterling bloc.

"It is bondage, they claim. England has many weapons with which she could strangle Ireland - a tariff on beef, shutting off her credit, as well as the use of force.

"England so far has done remarkably in practising self-restraint, but Gray believes that on its previous form, it will probably make some serious error in the future."

Kennedy argued the legacy of Ireland's civil war was still dominating many of the debates in the Dail. But he suggested that recovery of the treaty ports in 1938 had provided a major political boost for Fianna Fail.

He wrote: "This has given de Valera ammunition, and has given some substance to his feeling that everything that has been gotten by Ireland from England has been given grudgingly, and at the end of a long and bitter battle."

Among the countries visited by Kennedy was post-war Germany, where he saw the remains of Hitler's bunker in Berlin.

He was deeply affected by the devastation he saw as he walked through the streets of the German capital Berlin, and wrote: "The stench - sickish and sweet from dead bodies - is overwhelming."

A live auction of JFK's diary will take place at RR Auction's gallery in Boston, US, on April 26. Details about how to bid can be found at www.rrauction.com

Sunday Independent

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