No. 299 NAI DFA ES Box 6 File 37(2)

Memorandum by George Gavan Duffy:
The position of Ireland's 'Foreign Affairs' at date of general election, 1922

(Confidential)

Dublin, 21 June 1922

I The Past Five Months

The position of the Department of Foreign Affairs since January has been very anomalous in view of the fact that it was desirable to keep the foreign activities of the Dail alive in case the British Government should fail to comply with its obligations under the Treaty, while there was no Foreign Affairs Department in the Provisional Government and the Government of [the] Dail was not recognised abroad.

During this transition period it has consequently been impossible to attempt to extend our activities abroad, save in the direction of establishing useful relations in quarters which were formerly reluctant to be connected with us. The main effort of the Foreign Office both at home and abroad has been directed to laying foundations for future developments; steps have been taken to organise the Offices at home and abroad and to systematise their work, in order to equip them for the much more important functions that they must shortly undertake; the libraries abroad have been supplemented and a substantial library is being gradually collected at home on foreign, dominion and constitutional problems; in particular, a good deal of Canadian constitutional material has been compiled.

II Ireland's Debut In The International Field

The Conference at Genoa would have given us an opening for making a first appearance at an International Congress, but the opportunity was not a good one; first, because the Conference was a specialised one on a special subject with which we are only indirectly concerned and our first appearance should, to get its full value, be made on an occasion when the agenda will give our Envoy a direct interest in making himself heard; secondly, only the Provisional Government could have been recognised by the Powers; thirdly, it would have been highly injudicious for Ireland to make her first appearance at a moment of fierce international conflict, for her Envoy would have been so cordially greeted that he could not have remained silent and, if he spoke and stated anything approaching the true Irish view of the present international situation, he would prematurely have made enemies for his country, at a time when Ireland is not yet as free as she will be under the Treaty to assert herself.

The same objection will have some force and will continue to have force until Ireland joins the League of Nations. The proposed Hague Conference is a continuation of the Genoa Conference and it is essentially a Conference of Experts; moreover it takes place before the new Irish Government is formed.

III Development Of Irish Influence Abroad

There is increasing evidence of the fact that Ireland has lost heavily in prestige as a result of the violence and excesses of recent months. Nevertheless, we are still, beyond question, in high favour among influential people on the continent and our Envoys will be much sought after. The reasons are: first, that Ireland is a world-race with great possibilities; secondly, that we are supposed to have great influence upon American politics and policy; thirdly, that we know England better than the continental peoples and that the friendship of an Ireland lying on England's flank may at any moment be very useful; moreover, we have a reputation for frankness and fearlessness which stands us in good stead, and it has often been said that Ireland in the League of Nations will be invaluable, because she may be expected to say plainly the things that everyone is thinking and that other Powers are too cowardly to be the first to say.

Another factor is the likelihood of our direct trade developments and the attractive possibilities offered by a share in the commerce which we have hitherto been doing with England.

All the principal countries, and most of the smaller ones, want closer connections with us, and many of them are influenced by the fact that Ireland is believed to stand for democratic principles, against Imperialism and upon the side of liberty throughout the World.

Our geographical position will be an asset of first importance, for it should not take long to make Ireland commercially the great link between the old world and the new. The early establishment of air connections between Cobh and the Continent for the American mail would do much to impress upon foreign countries the importance of Ireland's position in this respect, and whenever the question of changing the seat of the League of Nations is raised again, Ireland's geographic position between North and South America and Europe would give her a claim to serious consideration as against Switzerland.

There is no doubt whatever that these various factors give us an international importance quite disproportionate to the size and population of this island and that we can enhance our international position, if we seize our obvious opportunities.

The bigger our world-position becomes, the more increasingly difficult it will be for England to attempt any undue interference with us; for this reason, if for no other, money and trouble spent by the Irish Government upon foreign development will be amply repaid. There is no other sphere in which we have equal opportunities for making ourselves seriously felt by England; and it is urgently necessary that we should train some of the best of our young men for the international field.

IV Foreign Recognition

One of the very first steps for the Government to take as soon as the present duality of Government1 is ended by the new Dail is to send formal notification to all Foreign Powers of our emergence as a Nation. We should not wait to take this step for recognition until the Constitution of the Saorstat is finally settled. A number of Foreign Powers will certainly want to send their Agents and Consuls to Dublin without delay, but they are naturally waiting for notification from us before so doing. The French Government has already intimated privately that it will send here an 'Attaché Commercial,' whose real functions will be diplomatic and political, though ostensibly he will be concerned with trade.

V. League Of Nations

In particular, the new Government can apply forthwith for Membership of the League of Nations. I suppose that the desirability of our joining the League (whatever certain Irish-Americans may say) is too evident for argument, and it is worth noting that the newly acquired international status of the British Dominions is evidenced in international law primarily by the fact of their separate and individual adherence to the League.

The Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland should be registered by us with the League as soon as we are recognised.

Mr. MacWhite, our representative at Geneva, wrote under date 4th February, 1922, as follows:

'Ireland and the League of Nations.

'I had an interview with Sir Eric Drummond, General Secretary of the League of Nations, on January 17th., with reference to the procedure to be followed by any new State in making application for membership.

In the first place the State or Nation must conform to Article I of the Covenant and satisfy the General Assembly of the League that it is a self-governing Dominion or State. It must also give a guarantee to the effect that it will abide by the international obligations, which membership of the League entails.

Application for admission to membership should be made by the Prime Minister of the State. This application should be supported by documentary evidence, such as extracts from Treaties or other agreements. In the case of Ireland, a copy of the Treaty of December 6th, as well as the subsequent letter from Mr. Lloyd George, should accompany the application. At the same time, so as to avoid any controversy or objections being raised, it would be well that the English Government should notify the Secretariat of the League of Nations of Ireland's new status.

As soon as a formal application for membership reaches the Secretary of the League, each member of that body will be furnished with a copy of it, and at the next meeting of the General Assembly, which takes place in September, the question of Ireland's admission would be considered. One notice would be given to the Irish Government to appoint three Delegates to this Assembly, and if during the discussion of the application any question were raised, those delegates would be required to furnish the necessary explanations. If the application is admitted, the Irish Delegates would then take their seats in the Assembly.

I also enquired of the General Secretary if, after formal application for membership had been made, Ireland would, in anticipation of her admission, be invited to send delegates to any International Conferences organised by the League. Sir Eric could not accept the responsibility for such a procedure, though, on my pointing out that Finland enjoyed a like privilege, he admitted that a letter from the English Premier to the effect that the latter saw no difficulties in the way of Ireland having such representation would give a new aspect to the situation. In order to have representation in anticipation a note to that effect should accompany the demand for membership and, to avoid all difficulties, a letter from Mr. Lloyd George, as above pointed out, should be forwarded at the same time. It is necessary to remember that Ireland could not be admitted to membership before the meeting of the General Assembly in September, but she may be permitted to participate in the work of the League before that date.'

It is very desirable that the unified Irish Government should take the necessary steps towards obtaining membership of the League before September, 1922, when the next General Assembly of the League is to be held. Incidentally, that would probably be the best opportunity to seize for our first appearance at a great International Conference.

VI Our Offices Abroad
Our principal posts abroad will be:
WASHINGTON,
BERLIN, and
GENEVA.
Next in importance will be:
PARIS,
OTTAWA.
ROME, and

WASHINGTON is the Capital of the only country where we can strongly and directly influence official action on a large scale. And England will always fear our influence in the U.S.A., if we take the trouble to organise and direct it, for high finance, trade, shipping, strategy, are all matters in which England is vitally interested and in which we can help or hurt her in America.
BERLIN is likely to become very rapidly the most active centre in Europe of international ambition, political and economic, and will be far more important to us than Paris.
GENEVA ought to be our best centre in Europe, for the League of Nations has already gathered round it a resident collection of representatives from all over the world, and no other city will furnish anything approaching the same opportunities for making contact and creating friendly relations. Geneva is at present the real centre of convergence of international democratic effort, overt and concealed.
PARIS is mainly of traditional importance, for France by her present international policy is isolating herself.
ROME will require an Envoy to the Quirinal, i.e., the Italian People, who are the most sincerely friendly to us of any nation in Europe, and a second Envoy for the Vatican, where we shall be respected in the measure in which Irish Catholic influence may be exerted in America and Australia. The tireless intrigues carried on by England at the Vatican, where she has one of her best men as Ambassador, make it essential that we should be well represented there.
OTTAWA is also of special importance to us in view of the assimilation of our position with that of Canada and of the need for watching Canadian developments closely and of cultivating actively cordial relations with the best elements in the Dominion.
A scheme has been carefully prepared indicating some 20 principal centres where we should be represented as soon as possible and indicating also the material we have from which to choose our representatives.

VII Propaganda And Information

As regards the U.S.A. in particular, the British have set us an example which ought to be followed of sending out frequently, as visitors, persons of distinction in science, art, literature, and so forth, to give lectures and to improve the contact with influential groups in Universities and elsewhere; Professor Smiddy's visits to American Universities have been a signal success and there is no doubt that a great deal could be done in America in this direction and that the work should be undertaken immediately as a definite part of our national propaganda abroad, more especially in America and in the British Dominions. We can recover our prestige by active propaganda and publicity.

VIII Special Commission To Canada-South Africa

A special Delegation should be sent as soon as possible to Canada in view of the constitutional position under the Treaty for the purpose of ascertaining clearly where Canada stands upon the principal constitutiona1 points that interest us. M. Henri Bourassa, the French-Canadian leader, who is fiercely hostile to England and with whom the Foreign Office is in communication, is likely to arrive in Dublin very soon.

Contact should be established with General Hertzog at an early date; this might be done most conveniently through a representative of his on the Continent. There is evidence that the Republican Party in South Africa is growing considerably in strength.

IX Register Of Irish Citizens

A form of Register of Irish Nationals, with a view to their registration as Irish Citizens under the new Constitution, is ready for the printer and should be sent out to our representatives abroad when the new Government is constituted.

X Foreign Office Management

There is a great deal to be said for a system whereby the Prime Minister would also be titular Minister for Foreign or External Affairs, as he often is in the British Dominions, but in order to secure continuity of policy and of direction it would be well to follow the practice of France and the U.S.A. whereby Foreign Affairs generally are managed by a Special Committee of Members of Parliament; such a Committee in Ireland could undertake all the active work in Foreign Affairs, its decisions always being subject to ratification by the Minister.

The ignorance of Foreign Affairs in this country and the apathy concerning them, due to the failure to realise that they will provide our best opportunities for improving our National Status, make it necessary that we should have in Parliament a nucleus of persons trained to interest themselves specially in this matter; otherwise many important opportunities are likely to be lost, and an overburdened Cabinet will perforce neglect a subject for which it will never have adequate time and upon which it will generally be too slightly informed.

The system of a Foreign Affairs Committee would take Foreign Affairs out of party politics and so enable us much more rapidly to develop a really national policy in international matters.

XI: Personnel

(A) At Home:
At home the Department of Foreign Affairs ought to be managed by several permanent Heads of Departments acting upon the instructions of the Minister or of the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, as outlined below:

(1) There should be a thoroughly responsible General Secretary.
(2) There should be a Secretary for Foreign politics whose duty it would be to keep in close touch with political developments abroad and to advise upon the opportunities, as they present themselves, for the exertion of Irish influence. This position will be difficult to fill suitably, for it requires a fund of knowledge and a good deal of antecedent experience.
(3) There should be a Legal Secretary whose main function would be to study the constantly growing developments of constitutional practice in the relations between Great Britain and the British Dominions and to get into close touch with the representatives of those interests in the British Dominions which are seeking to reduce British influence and interference to a nullity.

This Secretary would be specially charged with the preparatory work necessary for the Constitutional Conference at which Ireland should be ready to lead the Left. There is plenty of scope for a really competent man in this work. The definite abolition of the Royal Veto, the transformation of the Governor-General into a mere Ambassador of his Britannic Majesty, the abolition of all judicial interference by his Britannic Majesty's Privy Council, the unqualified right of every member of the British Commonwealth to have its own Foreign representatives, diplomatic and consular, are among the questions upon which the Irish view is likely to receive the strongest support from Dominion representatives at the Constitutional Conference between the Dominions and Great Britain. But it is absolutely essential to prepare well in advance for that Conference by making sure that the Irish Government shall have expert documentation up to date and by taking steps to secure close contact between that Government and the more useful elements in the Dominions.

(4) There should be a Secretary for Publicity who would be a liaison officer between the Information or Publicity Department of the Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs, by which he would be directly employed. In no other way can we secure the prompt despatch of adequate and reliable information to our representatives abroad in order to enable them to counteract the anti-Irish propaganda which is certain to develop on a large scale as soon as it is realised by the British Government that Ireland definitely refuses to accept as permanent a place within the British Empire. Our wireless connections ought to be of substantial help in this direction.

(5) There would be a Secretary for Trade, who would supervise Irish Consular work and the very extensive developments of it which we may anticipate, and he would of course keep in close touch with the Trade Department. It is suggested that Mr. E. J. Riordan of the Dublin Industrial Development Association would be admirably suited to undertake this work.

(B) Abroad:
Our representation abroad is going to be a very delicate and difficult matter, because we have not suitable people to fill the posts that we must create. Even the existing posts are not properly filled; our representative in Berlin knows little German, our representative in Madrid is only learning Spanish, and our Rome representative does not know Italian. It is idle to expect that anyone representing Ireland in a foreign country can ever get into very intimate contact with the people behind the scenes in the country to which he is sent, unless he knows the language thoroughly well.

A list has been prepared of candidates for appointments abroad including those who might go out in a secretarial capacity at once and young men who might be sent out to be trained with a view to future employment, but the list is meagre and there are many posts which it will be difficult to fill quite satisfactorily at present.

For important positions, the most suitable candidates from the point of view of familiarity with diplomacy abroad are those who have been brought up in the Anglo-Irish tradition and who have taken no part in the National struggle, people who have spent a good many years away from home, often in the British Diplomatic Service, and who have friends and acquaintances highly placed in foreign countries; but these people will generally be found to be wholly unsuitable from the most important point of view; that is, they are so divorced from Irish ideas, and so impregnated with English prejudices, which they have imbibed without knowing it, that their whole outlook on foreign affairs is the outlook of Downing Street. Consequently, if any such persons have to be employed through sheer lack of material, they will generally be found suitable only for minor appointments under strict supervision.

In the case of Paris, Rome and Madrid, it is necessary to bear in mind the undoubted fact that the tradition is still very strong which makes it essential to an efficient diplomatic appointment that the nominee should be a person either of aristocratic descent or known to have been trained from youth for the diplomatic service. In these three cities anyone else will arrive as an outsider and will remain an outsider with a serious diminution of effectiveness in consequence. He will never get the entrée to the Clubs and Salons where opinion is really formed and where the wheels of international action are unobtrusively set in motion. The fact may be very regrettable, but it must be realised, and we cannot change it. Count P J. O'Byrne, Rome, is the only one of our foreign representatives whose foreign connections are important and valuable from this standpoint.

Happily, these medieval considerations do not nowadays apply with any great force in any Capitals but Paris, Rome and Madrid.

XII Foreigners As Vice-Consuls

While all our Consul and Diplomatic officials should be selected from our own Nationals, the position is somewhat different as regards Vice-Consuls. With a view to the development of our own Passport system, we should in every city of importance have at least a Vice-Consul giving part of his time to our Passport business; such Vice-Consuls need not be Irishmen.

XIII Premises

In Dublin the Department of Foreign Affairs will have at its disposal Ely House, unless the Government decides to allocate that house to some other Department. Pursuant to the decision of the Cabinet of Dail, negotiations were entered into by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Lady Aberdeen, whereby we are committed to taking this house, if our lawyers are satisfied upon the technical questions of title which arise. The Government will take the house for 12 months only at £260 per annum with an option during those 12 months to take a lease for some 30 years at £300 per annum. Rates are not included in this rental and it is presumed that all rates on property occupied by the Government will be compounded for in a lump sum by the Government.

As to our offices abroad, the Delegation in Rome has admirable premises.

In Berlin and in Paris the Delegations are badly located in hotels and they have instructions to prosecute an active search for suitable premises to be taken on lease as soon as possible.

In Madrid and in Geneva our representatives are housed in small and inadequate flats.

It will be desirable, under whatever designations our foreign representatives may be sent abroad, that our Consular Agents proper should be under the same roof as our Diplomatic Agents, or at least in adjoining premises, and instructions to this effect have been given to the Delegations in Paris and Berlin. It is obvious that the Diplomatic and Consular Agents in each country should be under one, single, directing control.

XIV Fine Ghaedheal

It will be a great pity if this organisation cannot be made use of. It was started under very unsatisfactory circumstances and, as at present constituted, cannot be relied upon to be anything more than a party organisation, but £6,000 of public money has been spent on bringing it into being and it should be made a national asset. Under proper direction it would be capable of being made exceedingly useful to us wherever the Irish Race has influence; but to ensure this development along proper lines it should be kept in touch with the Government; no financial advance should be made to it until some person directly representing Government policy is added to its Executive.

To show how thoroughly unsatisfactory is the direction of this Body at present, two instances may be mentioned:-
(1) The Honorary Secretary is an Irish-American, Mr. T.H. Kelly, resident in Paris, who has no acquaintance with business methods and does not answer correspondence.
(2) Mr. R. Brennan, Secretary of Fine Ghaedheal, by collusion with the very incompetent lady who was appointed General Secretary of the Irish Race Congress, obtained possession from the shorthand-writer of the three transcripts of the proceedings of that Congress which cost the Department of Foreign Affairs upwards of £130; and he refused to hand any one of the transcripts to the Foreign Office, when called upon. This manoeuvre was carried out, of course, without the knowledge or authority of any Department of Government.

It is, therefore, quite obvious that no public money should be given to this Body until the Government is satisfied that its Secretariat, paid and unpaid, will not be left uncontrolled and until the Government is sufficiently represented on the Governing Body to be secure as to that Body's policy. Subject to this, I think the organisation is of sufficient national importance to deserve Government support; it is sure to ask again for that support, sooner or later, since the Australian, New Zealand, African and Argentine delegates are strongly advising those who delegated them to the Congress to have nothing whatever to do with the organisation in view of the conduct at the Paris Conference of the persons who are now in control of it; that advice is likely to be followed until those concerned are reassured, i.e., until such time as the Government feels justified in showing publicly that the organisation has its confidence.

XV Book Of Ireland

A volume is under preparation, similar to those issued by several other countries, giving practical information about the country for the use and encouragement of foreign enquirers. The book should be handsomely turned out with attractive photographs and should be distributed in several languages. This form of propaganda is somewhat expensive, but I believe that it will pay us well, provided that the work be carefully produced.

XVI Irish Passports

Immediately upon the formation of the new unified Irish Government we shall be in a position to issue our own passports. This is a matter which deserves the immediate attention of the new Government.

XVII New Credentials To Irish Envoys

Our representatives abroad, who hold their offices from the old Government, should be confirmed in them upon the accession of the new Government by the issue of new credentials.

S. Ghabháin Uí Dhubhthaigh

1 A reference to the effective merging of the Dáil and Provisional Government cabinets.


Users who read this document also viewed...

  • Document No. 281 Volume 1 (04 May 1922) T.A. Smiddy to George Gavan Duffy (Dublin) Read more...

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online

ebooks

ebooks

The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.
 

Free Download


International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....



Website design and developed by FUSIO