Volume 3 1926~1932

Doc No.

No. 547 NAI DT S2220

Memorandum by the Department of External Affairs on the Irish policy at the League of Nations

Dublin, undated, 19311

League Of Nations

During the past twelve months the Government's policy towards the League of Nations has been directed to the same objects as in the past, namely to maintain and increase the prestige of the nation abroad, to co-operate to the fullest extent of our resources in the practical work of the League, and to use our influence to further the principle that the main object of the League is to bring about disarmament.

(1) The Briand Memorandum2

In May last, the French Foreign Minister circulated to the other European Members of the League, for their observations, a memorandum containing his plan for the organisation of a federal union of the States of Europe. All the States addressed replied to the memorandum. The Irish Government's reply, which was published in full in the Press, gave their considered attitude towards the proposal, laying particular stress on the undesirability of setting up another organisation parallel to the League, and on their determination to preserve the complete economic and political sovereignty of this country.

(2) The Elections to the Council of the League

At the Assembly held at Geneva in September last the Irish Free State was elected to a non-permanent seat on the Council of the League by 36 votes out of 48. That this country should have been elected to the Council by more than 2/3rds of the votes of the other States Members of the League may justly be claimed as a vindication of the policy pursued by the Government in the League, and as an indication of the degree of prestige achieved for this country amongst its sister States of the world.

(3) General Act

In July last, the Government ratified the Optional Clause, which provides for the settlement by judicial procedure of international disputes of a legal character. The General Act provides for the settlement, by pacific means - i.e. by means of adjudication, arbitration or conciliation - of all disputes between States, whether they are of a legal character or not. In accordance with the policy which has been pursued heretofore, and with the obligations which this country contracted by its ratification of the Kellogg Pact, the Government intends to seek the authority of the Dáil and Seanad to accede to the General Act at an early date.

(4) Codification of International Law

International tribunals cannot be expected to function successfully unless the rules of international law, which they are established to apply, are simple, accessible and unequivocal. Unfortunately, many of the rules of international law are at present shrouded in doubts, and these doubts, if they are not removed, will inevitably prove a source of international conflict. After six years of preparation, the first Codification Conference was held at The Hague last year. It met with only a very limited measure of success, for reasons which the Government consider can readily be remedied. At the Assembly held in September last, however, an effort was made by the Great Powers to secure the discontinuation of the work of the League in connection with codification of international law. Their efforts were opposed by the Irish delegation,3 and there is every reason to hope that the initiative taken by the Government in this matter will put this country at the head of a movement in the League which will eventually result in the successful conclusion of this important work.

(5) Disarmament

The Irish Free State was represented at the Preparatory Commission for Disarmament in November last, and at the session of the Council in January, when it was decided to convene the General Disarmament Conference on the 2nd February next. Steps are being taken to ensure that this country will be able to play an appropriate part at the Conference, which will be the most important since the Peace Conference at Versailles.

(6) The Economic Work of the League

The Irish Free State was represented at the sessions of the so-called Tariff Truce Conference held in March and November 1930, and in March 1931. In keeping with their policy of avoiding any international commitment which would deprive this country of its complete tariff autonomy, the Government did not accept the so- called Tariff Truce Convention, which has since proved a complete failure.

(7) Miscellaneous

The Government were represented during the last twelve months at the following Conferences held under the auspices of the League:-

(1) The First Conference for Concerted Economic Action (Tariff Truce Conference), February - March 1930.
(2) First Codification Conference, March - April 1930.
(3) First and Second meetings of European Union Conference, September 1930.
(4) Second Conference for Concerted Economic Action, November 1930.
(5) Preparatory Commission for Disarmament Conference, November - December 1930.
(6) European Road Traffic Conference, March 1931.
(7) European Grain Conference, February 1931.
(8) Second Session of Second Conference for Concerted Economic Action, March 1931.
(9) Meetings of the Assembly, Councils, etc.

During the year, the Government's attitude towards the following Conventions was determined in the manner indicated:-

(1) International Convention for the Circulation of and Traffic in Obscene Publications. Ratified, 15th September 1930.
(2) International Convention for securing the abolition of Slavery and the Slave Trade. Accession deposited, 18th July 1930.
(3) Protocol for the Revision of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice. Ratified, 2nd August 1930.
(4) Protocol concerning the Accession of the United States of America to the Protocol of Signature of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice. Ratified, 2nd August, 1930.
(5) Geneva Gas Protocol. Accession, 29th August 1930.
(6) Optional Clause. Ratified, 11th July 1930.
(7) Convention relating to Economic Statistics, with Protocol. Ratified, 15th September 1930.
(8) Convention on Financial Assistance. Signed, 2nd October 1930.

1This document was most likely written between March and May 1931.

2See No. 390.

3See No. 433