CAIN archive: “I presume that it is not contemplated that External Affairs might suggest”

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So, great news for pol and history anoraks… Cain have got hold of some fascinating fragments of history from the national archive in Dublin and put them online…

You can browse it all from the home page here. And the way Cain have structured it you can dive in by year. The early stuff (mid 60s) is wonderfully laconic.

I love the way too that senior civil servants address each other by their surnames. And the scribbled writing in the margins is fantastically educative of the context and purpose of these communications.

One of my favourites is a discussion of a Guardian article reporting an attack on the Royal Navy Helicopter support vessel Lofoten. The letters begin with Dear O Nuallain and Dear Berry respectively.

Berry is writing from the Taoiseach’s office and wants to know what O Nuallain advises the government do about it. I love this mildly strangulated response:

I presume that it is not contemplated that External Affairs might suggest to the U.K. representative that visits of this kind are not opportune. What prompts me to mention this is that when a British Naval vessel was fired on at Waterford on September lOth, McCann asked me for details and mentioned that the Minister for External Affairs deprecated visits of British naval vessels to our ports for recruiting purposes. The Waterford incident was the work of irresponsibles, too, who were acting on their own initiative: the three men involved are in prison awaiting trial.

Fascinating, not least the focus the Department of Justice puts on the behaviour of the ‘irresponsibles’ when the Minister of External Affairs wants to use the incident to warn the British off recruitment drives amongst Irish citizens.

More later…

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