No. 385 NAI DFA Paris Embassy 109B
Letter from Patrick McGilligan to J.H. Thomas (London)
(L.N. 80) (No. 141) (Secret) (Copy)
Dublin, 18 June 1930
I have the honour to refer to your predecessor's Secret Despatch Dominions Treaty No. 36 of the 3rd instant, and to state that His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State find themselves in agreement with much of what is set forth in the Despatch in question and in the memorandum which accompanied it, but they dissent from the view that the candidature of the Irish Free State for a seat on the Council this year will be regarded as a definite attempt to establish a Dominion group. The views of the Irish Free State on the question of the allocation of non-permanent seats are, or ought to be, well known to every Member of the League, for they were clearly set forth by the Irish Delegation in plenary session at the Seventh Assembly, when the system of re-eligibility was introduced and the group system was discussed.1 Moreover, in his speech at the 1926 Assembly, Sir John Foster, the representative of Canada, made it equally clear that his country made no claims except to equal status and equal privileges with all the other Members of the League. While he agreed that weight should be attached to the aspect of geographical distribution, he affirmed the opposition of his Government to the group system, an affirmation in which the Irish Delegation whole-heartedly concurred.
2. Accordingly, there appears to be no room for misconception in this matter. Three vacancies will occur on the Council in September next, and it is the intention of the Irish Free State to offer itself for election to one of these, not in the capacity of one of the Member Nations of the British Commonwealth, but as a Member of the League having equal rights to representation with all the other Members. It is probable that under the working of the present group system one of the three seats will go to a Scandinavian country, and another to a South or Central American State, but the third seat will be a 'free seat', and it is for this that the Irish Free State intends to offer itself, claiming no precedence over any other candidate or candidates who may go forward. Moreover, it seems evident from foreign press reports - not all of them helpful to the Irish candidature - that the fact that this country is seeking election not as a Dominion or as a natural successor of Canada, but solely as a Member of the League of Nations, is well recognised abroad.
3. The Irish Government would be very glad indeed if any action of theirs facilitated the aspirations of a country like China in its desire to utilise more fully the machinery of the League. But it cannot be overlooked that the Nanking Government is at present far from stable, and it seems more than likely that it will not have succeeded by next September in restoring its position. Moreover, China failed in 1928 to obtain a vote of re-eligibility, and as it is in arrears of subscriptions to the League to the amount of over 8,000,000 gold francs, it is practically certain that it will not be in a position to obtain in September next the necessary two-thirds majority to render it eligible to become this year a candidate for membership of the Council. In this connection it will be recalled that the election to positions of honour and responsibility in the League of States which are considerably in arrears with their subscriptions gave rise last year to unfavourable comment at the Assembly, and that the question of how best to deal with the cases of countries in arrears is to come up for special consideration by the Council before the Eleventh Session.
4. Apart from the question of the candidature of the Irish Free State, His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State would find it exceedingly difficult in China's existing circumstances to support a request from China on the re-eligibility issue, especially as the Persian - an Asiatic - seat will become vacant next year.
5. The Government of the Irish Free State would be glad to have the method of election to the Council fully re-explored. They do not think, however, that any result consistent with their views would be likely to be secured at the present time. The position was examined thoroughly at the Seventh Session when the present compromise was arrived at, and the existing arrangement appears to be not unsatisfactory to the majority of States. Accordingly, they have no observations to offer on this question beyond reiterating the views which their delegation expressed at the meeting of the Assembly in 1926, and their view put forward in the Ninth Assembly that the difficulties surrounding elections to the Council would be largely overcome if such elections were conducted in accordance with the system of proportional representation known as that of the single transferable vote. Under this system, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State, it would be unnecessary to have any provisions against the election of a country for two successive terms. Due representation of geographical and other groups could be secured without even an informal allocation of seats, and no nation would have any grievance if it failed to secure election.
6. His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State are grateful for the assurance contained in paragraph 6 of your predecessor's despatch, but should His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom still find it expedient in their own conception of international interests to oppose the candidature of the Irish Free State, such action will not in any way affect the cordial relations which exist between our two Governments.
I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient, humble servant,
[stamped] (signed) Patrick McGilligan