No. 303 NAI DT S3332

Memorandum by George Gavan Duffy on Ireland's membership of the League of Nations

Dublin, 22 July1922

Ireland and the League of Nations

1. I assume that it is agreed that Ireland should apply for membership of the League of Nations.
2. A General Assembly of the League takes place in September, and our application could be dealt with then. It is only at a General Assembly that the principle of our right to admission can be accepted; and it is not likely that there will be another General Assembly for at least 12 months or more.
3. On 13th December, 1921, Mr. Lloyd George wrote to Mr. Griffith that '. . . They (viz: the Articles of the Treaty which are not in the Canadian Constitution) in no way affect the position of the Irish Free State in the Commonwealth or its title to representation, like Canada, in the Assembly of the League of Nations. They were agreed between us for our mutual benefit, and have no bearing of any kind upon the question of status. It is our desire that Ireland shall rank co-equal with the other nations of the Commonwealth, and we are ready to support her claim to a similar place in the League of Nations as soon as her new Constitution comes into effect. . . '
4. Article I of the Covenant of the League provides that '. . . Any fully self-governing State, Dominion or Colony not named in the Annex, may become a Member of the League if its admission is agreed to by two-thirds of the Assembly, provided that it shall give effective guarantees of its sincere intention to observe its international obligations, and shall accept such regulations as may be prescribed by the League in regard to its military and naval forces and armaments. . .'
5. In view of the steps which England has taken to implement the Treaty already, it is clear that we are already 'fully self-governing' and, except in the unlikely event of objections being raised by England, no opposition whatever to our admission is to be anticipated from the Assembly. It is obviously England's interest at present to conciliate the Irish Government and it is thought that she would be slow to raise objections to reasonable proposals of the Provisional Government.
6. Ireland now possesses all the distinguishing marks of an independent State, fit for international recognition, and the Irish Government has displaced British authority with Britain's consent.
7. For the purposes of the League of Nations our Constitution is already sufficiently defined since its general lines are laid down by the Treaty and its details concern only ourselves and England. At any rate, the Geneva atmosphere will be very friendly and, should the fact that the Constitution is still a draft be pressed in any quarter as a reason for delay, we should at least get a decision definitely accepting Ireland's application in principle and delegating to the Council of the League the power to admit Ireland as soon as the Constitution comes into effect, so that Ireland may be entitled to attend the next following Assembly as a Member of the League, not as an applicant.
8. Accordingly, I propose that application be made for Ireland's admission to the League of Nations at the September Assembly, and if this is agreed to I shall prepare the necessary papers as soon as possible.


9. It would facilitate and simplify matters at Geneva, when our application is heard, if the Treaty between Ireland and England had already been registered at Geneva.
10. Article XVIII. of the Covenant of the League of Nations provides as follows:- 'Article XVIII.- Every treaty or international engagement entered into hereafter by any Member of the League shall be forthwith registered with the Secretariat and shall as soon as possible be published by it. No such treaty or international engagement shall be binding until so registered.'
11. I am strongly of opinion, particularly in view of the strong position that we now hold with England, that a letter should be written to the British Government formally notifying them of Ireland's intention to apply for admission to the League at the General Assembly in September next and inviting them to register the Treaty in the meantime, though it has not technically been ratified; we cannot, of course, claim registration at this stage as a matter of strict right; it is rather a matter of good will.
12. The registration of the Treaty will in other respects strengthen our hands and improve our status; from the English point of view it would also have the advantage of placing upon international record the fact of Ireland's commitment to the Treaty.
13. In my view, it is urgent that we should become Members of the League and it would be dangerous to wait another year or more; consequently, I commend all steps likely to facilitate that object. The mere assertion of our claim and the good will with which it will be met at Geneva would be very useful to us both abroad and at home. And it is their Membership of the League which above all else carries with it for the Dominions in international law the high international status as sovereign States that they now hold.

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



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