No. 237 NAI DFA 26/75
Letter from Frederick H. Boland to Seán Murphy (Dublin)
Geneva, 13 September 1934
Dear Assistant Secretary,1
You will have already received my letter of the 10th instant2 in which I reported to you the circumstances of the withdrawal of the President's candidature for the presidency of the Assembly. You will, perhaps, also have seen the article in the Daily Herald of the 12th instant which we rather suspect is based on information supplied by Mr. Phelan. Immediately after the withdrawal by the President of his candidature for the presidency of the Assembly, Mr. Phelan suggested that the President should run for the chairmanship of the Sixth Committee, and argued that a phrase used by M. Barthou in conversation with the President after the withdrawal of the latterís candidature ('nous trouverons une autre occasion de vous manifester notre sympathie') constituted a promise by the French to support the President if he should run for the post. There appeared to be no other candidate for the 6th Committee chairmanship in the field at that time, and Mr. Phelan informed us that Madariaga had promised in conversation with him to support and further the Presidents candidature. I may say that, after the events in connection with the presidency of the Assembly, we were rather diffident ourselves about pressing the President's candidature for the 6th Committee. What we felt was that having regard to the Presidentís 'beau geste' in voluntarily abandoning the presidency of the Assembly, if we were to get the chairmanship of the 6th Committee at all, it should be the result of spontaneous action on the part of other delegations without any active canvassing on our part.
When Messrs. Hearne and Cremins arrived at the meeting in the afternoon of the 10th inst. at which the 6th Committee Chairman was to be elected, they met, as they entered the door SeŮor Madariaga, who informed them that there was a general feeling in the 6th Committee that he himself should accept the chairmanship. He appears to have canvassed for himself very actively between the morning and the afternoon meeting, notwithstanding his promise to Mr. Phelan to support and further the candidature of the President. Messrs. Hearne and Cremins, after a rapid survey of the situation, came to the conclusion that if the Presidentís candidature were to be proposed in opposition to that of Mr. Madariaga, there was considerable danger of exposing the President to defeat by a person who is very much the inferior of the President in prestige and position. They decided, therefore, not to propose the Presidentís candidature, and when Mr. Madariaga asked them to support his candidature and to propose him for the chairmanship, they agreed to both courses.
My personal view is that the people who were opposed to the President becoming President of the Assembly were, for exactly the same reasons, opposed to the President becoming Chairman of the Sixth Committee, and that once it had become clear that the States which are in favour of facilitating Russia's entry into the League did not want the President to be President of the Assembly, there were really no prospects whatever of the success of the Presidentís candidature for the 6th Committee. The reason for this is, of course, that the Chairman of the 6th Committee is a Member of the Bureau of the Assembly and would have a say in the procedural decisions upon which the manner of Russiaís entry into the League depends. In short, I really do not believe that the Presidentís candidature for the 6th Committee had, at any time, any more substantial basis than Mr. Phelanís statement that the President was entitled to the post having regard to his voluntary abandonment of the presidency of the Assembly.
I may add that although there was no tangible evidence of British action in connection with either the presidency of the Assembly or the chairmanship of the 6th Committee, the President himself is satisfied that the British had a part in both incidents.
The British Delegation held a dinner for Commonwealth delegates on the evening of Tuesday the 11th inst. All the members of our Delegation were invited, but the President decided that all the invitations should be declined. We received a number of press inquiries as to the reasons for this decision. We referred practically all the inquiries to the British Delegation for information as to the facts, but we told Mr. Sharkie of the Associated Press of America, privately and for his personal information, that the Presidentís decision was part of the Presidentís general policy in these matters and that it would require no explanation in the eyes of people who were familiar with that attitude. The British Delegation did not propose the general meeting of Commonwealth Delegates which is usually arranged early in the Assembly, but they proposed a meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the admission of Russia. The President decided that nobody from this Delegation should go. It is understood that the South African and Canadian Delegates took the same attitude and the meeting fell through.
The President spoke in the Assembly yesterday afternoon on the question of the procedure to be adopted for the admission of Soviet Russia. I enclose a copy of the speech.3 The speech was well received in official circles here and we are now waiting to see the press reactions. We understand, however, that Sir John Simon summoned the Press to a special meeting last night and made an attack on the Presidentís speech on the ground that it revealed a lack of knowledge of the procedural difficulties of the situation. The points mentioned by Sir John Simon did not bear out his general thesis because they were carefully discussed by us with the President before the President spoke at all. The President's speech was made at a most strategic moment and the general feeling here is that it is bound to exercise a strong influence on the future course of the negotiations in connection with the admission of Russia.
[signed] F.H. Boland