No. 295 NAI DFA ES Box 8 File 55

Extract from report for May 1922 from Michael MacWhite

7, Place Clapar?, Geneva, 1 June 1922

The League of Nations' Officials are growing increasingly anxious to know what are the intentions of the Irish Government with regard to that body. Even the General Secretary has been asking a friend of mine if the latter could get any information from me on the subject.1 They seem to be more firmly convinced than ever, at the Secretariat of the League, that if Ireland seeks admission at the forthcoming General Assembly which meets on the 3rd.September, next, American opinion would be favourably influenced by such a step.

Some time ago, I stated that Ireland could play a part in the League of Nations to which no other country could aspire and from my association with different Delegates I am now more convinced than ever that such would be the case. Owing to financial and other reasons the more progressive nations of Europe cannot take any great initiative or act independently without prejudicing themselves in the eyes of the big powers. Many of them would, however, be prepared to follow if we could show the way and, as Ireland has no international embarrassments and excites no international jealousies the sincerity of our motives would not be questioned. Those acquainted with the intricacies of European politics know that Greece will not follow Servia, or Czecho-Slovakia Poland and that it is sufficient for the latter to propose a certain line of action in order to incite the strongest opposition from Finland, Lithuania, etc. The amour-propre of those countries is easily wounded and as easily flattered, but by skilful handling Ireland could gain their confidence and respect. In Committees and Commissions we could play an important role, for to have Ireland largely represented on the latter is the policy of those who are looking towards the United States. Such action on their part may not be to flatter us but that would not in the least diminish its utility. There is also another category of States which have no love for England but for reasons over which they have no control they are obliged to dance to the English tune. They would also support Irish representatives for the chairmanship of Committees, etc., on the pretence that they were paying a compliment to the British, and on such an argument there could scarcely be any opposition from the latter.

To illustrate the foregoing argument I may mention an incident that happened here recently. The formation of an International Club had been for a long time under consideration. Membership was restricted to Delegates and Officials of the League of Nations and the International Labour Office, the Diplomatic and Consular corps and the elite of Geneva Society. About 300 persons had signified their intention of joining it but the question of a President considerably retarded progress. The French would not agree to an Englishman and the English would have no Frenchman and neither of the two would have a Latin or a Slav. A compromise was finally effected and Mr Phelan - an Irishman was unanimously chosen. The latter is, if anything more repugnant to the English than any Frenchman as he never hides his Sinn Fein principles but it was realised that opposition would be useless. What happened in this instance amongst what is to a large extent officials of the League is almost sure to be repeated by the Delegates if ever the opportunity presents itself.

I should also like to mention that I have been informed by several of those who assisted at the Genoa Conference of their disappointment that no Irish Representative was present. As the Secretary of the Conference called the roll, I was told there was a moment of dramatic expectancy when he came to Ireland. Everybody looked towards the seats reserved for the Irish Delegates only to find them empty. I have been told that it was a tactical mistake on the part of the Irish Government to have declined to participate in what is considered to be the greatest International Assembly that met since the Great War. There was much intriguing at Genoa and Delegates who had no particular axe to grind were much sought after. An Irish Representative by maintaining a diplomatic reserve could ingratiate himself with all those who had axes to grind and make his country an important factor in International diplomacy.

If the Irish Government is invited to the Hague I am convinced that it would be to its advantage to be represented there. Once we are internationally recognised by taking part in a Conference of the World powers, whatever change may take place in the situation at home, it would not be easy to deprive us of such representation in the future.

M[ichael]. MacWhite

1 Sir Eric Drummond, Secretary General of the League of Nations (1920-1933); identity of friend unknown.

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