Journal Volume 5 2006

John Francis O'Reilly and John Kenny: Irishmen sent by the Germans to spy in Ireland during World War 2 (continued/6)

While in Arbour Hill Prison, Kenny divulged very little to his interrogators being rather vague about the precise nature of his mission. The only admission he made about his mission was that he came to Ireland, not with the intention of doing harm to the country, but for the purpose of getting to England to work there against a country he did not like for another country (Germany) which was at war with England. He refused to reveal the names of any of contacts and remained extremely tight lipped. It is most likely that his main role was to serve / act as radio operator for O'Reilly but had not been trained adequately to perform this task and its appears that O’Reilly, who had misgivings about him, instructed him to go home and wait there until called by him.

Kenny was released from Arbour Hill Prison on 11th May 1945 and disappeared into obscurity.

The landing of these two German intelligence gatherers created some problems for the Irish Government even though the information obtained from them, especially O'Reilly, was being relayed to the British through the 'Dublin Link’. Their arrival had led to a diplomatic row in early 1944 when both the United States of America and British Governments sent separate diplomatic notes to Taoiseach Eamon de Valera as head of the Irish Government. At that time, the British and Americans were busy planning Operation Overload, the 6th June 1944 Normandy invasion and were concerned that intelligence information about the build up of men and equipment in Britain might be brought to the attention of the German and Japanese diplomatic representatives in Dublin for onward transmission to their respective governments.

Both governments decided jointly to exert diplomatic pressure on the Irish Government out of the need to maintain security and secrecy on this operation by submitting separate diplomatic notes calling for the immediate interment of these diplomatic representatives and the closure of their legations.

On 22nd February 1944, Alan Gray, the United States of America Minister to Ireland, served a long American Diplomatic Note on Taoiseach Eamon de Valera in which there were references to the radio transmitters found on O'Reilly and Kenny and to one in the German legation which he did not know had been surrendered the previous December to the Irish authorities and was being held at that time in a Dublin bank vault. Part of the American Note read:

‘We request, therefore, that the Irish Government take appropriate steps for the recall of German and Japanese representatives in Ireland. We would be lacking in candour if we did not state our hope that this action will take the form of severance of all diplomatic relations between Ireland and these two countries. You will readily understand the compelling reason why we ask, as an absolute minimum, the removal of these Axis representatives, whose presence in Ireland must inevitably be regarded as constituting a danger to the lives of American soldiers and to the success of Allied military operations.’

This was followed by the British Government's Note to Eire dated 22nd February 1944 which stated:

‘The United Kingdom Government desire to make it clear to the Government of Eire that for their part they would warmly welcome the initiative which has been taken by the United States and they fully support the request for the removal from Eire of German and Japanese Diplomatic and consular representatives. The United Kingdom Government wish to emphasise the importance they attach to this document.’

De Valera rejected both Diplomatic Notes and allowed the German and Japanese representatives to remain at liberty in the country until the end of World War 2. However in retaliation for the rejection of these requests, the British Government suspended travel between Britain and Ireland on 13th March 1944 citing 'military reasons' with the only exceptions being those whose travel or work was considered as of utmost importance. Irish workers in Britain and those serving in the armed services were unable to return to Ireland until these restrictions were eased from August 1944 onwards.


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