No. 161 NAI DFA 26/102

Letter from Michael MacWhite to Desmond Fitzgerald (Dublin), enclosing a
report on the admission of Ireland to the League of Nations
(N.S. 143/23)

GENEVA, 7 November 1923

A Chara,

I enclose you herewith some notes on the Admission of Ireland to Membership of the League of Nations and on the work of the Delegates on the different Commissions.

I regret that owing to pressure of work at the time I received your letter on this subject it was overlooked until now.

Is mise, le meas,
[signed] M. MACWHITE




The unanimous admission of the Irish Free State to membership of the League of Nations has been considered by many keen observers to be the most important, as it certainly was the most popular, event of the Fourth Assembly. By this act, Ireland entered into a Treaty with the 53 other Members of the League, by virtue of which her independence is guaranteed against any possible interference from outside her own shores. In addition she has entered into the domain of international affairs and definitely broken down the isolation wall which caused her to be known on the Continent as an 'island beyond an island'. Henceforward, she is a part of the European Comity, to whose civilisation she contributed so unstintingly during the Middle Ages.

The Sixth Committee which dealt with the admission of new Members unanimously recommended that of the Irish Free State. Its independence de jure and de facto was recognised in accordance with the terms of the Constitution. The stability of the Irish Government was unquestioned and it was taken into consideration by the Committee that 'provision for the final delimination of a part of the boundary has been made in the Treaty, dated Dec. 6th,1921, embodied in the fundamental law constituting the Irish Free State'. Article 12 of the Treaty had, therefore, to come to the official cognisance of the League before the case for the admission of An Saorstát was complete and it seems, ipso facto, that if a dispute arises over the implementing of the clauses of this Article, an appeal may be made to the League under Article 13 of the Covenant.

In proposing the admission of Ireland, the Chairman of the Sixth Committee, Mr. Meierovies, Prime Minister of Latvia, said that he felt bound to express in the name of his Government and of the Lettish people, the sentiments of strong sympathy which they felt for the noble Irish people to whose aspirations the Lettish people, rendered sensible by their own painful past, always showed the strongest sympathy. As the admission of a new State requires a two-third majority, a vote was taken by roll call to which the forty-six Members present responded in the affirmative. On the announcement of the decision, there was an extraordinary outburst of applause from all parts of the Hall which did not subside until the Irish Delegates had taken their seats.

In his address to the Assembly immediately afterwards President Cosgrave drew attention to the fact that from that day 'Ireland joined in a solemn covenant to exercise the powers of her sovereign status in promoting the peace, security and happiness[,] the economical, cultural and moral wellbeing of the human race'. He also emphasized the international character of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. This did not pass unnoticed. Writing in the 'Revue Politique et Parlementaire' a few days later, Professor Barthelemy, of the Faculté de droit, one of the French Delegates to the Fourth Assembly, remarked that the admission of Ireland was a remarkable international event and that, if ever England would be tempted to go back on the concessions to which she has consented in the document which President Cosgrave, in his thanks, intentionally qualified as an 'International Treaty', Ireland will have the right to appeal immediately to the League of Nations. Professor Barthelemy's words carry all the more weight as he was Chairman of the Jurists' Committee during the sitting of the Assembly. This is also the opinion of all the Delegates with whom I have come in contact and it proves, if proof were wanting, that by getting into the League Ireland has consolidated her international status, and considerably strengthened her constitutional position.

The part played by the Irish Delegates has also proved to the other nations, in a most convincing way, that the Irish people are not, as an insidious propaganda endeavours to make out, unfitted to take an intelligent part in international affairs. On some of the Committees it was thought sufficient to have Irish backing to get an amendment through. The votes of the Irish Delegates were amongst the first to be canvassed and, because of the weight attached to their influence, they were frequently asked to support motions made by the big as well as the small powers. The support given by the Irish Delegation to Finland on the Eastern Carelian question and to Dr. Nansen on the question of refugees made a very good impression and considerably increased Irish prestige amongst the powers which form the Baltic Group. When the decision of the League Council regarding the Graeco-Italian dispute came up before the Assembly for discussion, Lord Robert Cecil suggested that Professor MacNeill should speak on the question, as his words would carry considerable weight. His remarks, which were in wide and general terms irrespective of the case under consideration, went further than those of any other Delegate as he emphasized the fact that, in cases of dispute, the League should be appealed to in the first instance. Even the Italians were relieved by his speech as, unlike the other Delegates, he did not single them out as the only culprits.

In conclusion, it may be remarked that through the League Assembly the Irish Delegates were brought, for the first time into direct diplomatic contact with the Ministers and Ambassadors of other States. As Delegates to the League they were all on the same level and questions of prime importance which, under any other circumstances, would have been impossible could have been, and were, freely discussed. The relations thus established will be of exceptional value to the Free State and will, in many instances permit of direct communications with other Powers without the aid of any outside intermediary. For Ireland has now an interest for the League Members which, heretofore, she did not possess. She is popular in the Assembly and influential in the Committees. By employing those qualities to the best advantage she can command universal respect and obtain for herself a position in the international arena which few States, whether they be great or small, can possibly ignore.



Immediately after the admission of Ireland the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs were obliged to leave Geneva, to be followed a day later by Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Grattan Esmonde. The Delegation, until the end of the Assembly, was then constituted as follows: Dr. Eoin MacNeill, the Marquis MacSwiney, Mr. Kevin O'Shiel and Mr. Michael MacWhite, the three first as Delegates and the last as Substitute Delegate. The following appointments were then made to the different Committees:

1st Committee Dr. MacNeill

2nd       "         Marquis MacSwiney

3rd       "         Mr. MacWhite

4th       "         Mr. MacWhite

5th       "         Marquis MacSwiney

6th       "         Mr. Kevin O'Shiel

The work of the first Committee was confined to Constitutional questions, which included the proposed Amendments to Articles 10 and 16 of the Covenant. Its work was practically over before the Free State Representative was entitled to sit on it. The Second Committee dealt with Technical organisation, such as Health, Communications, Transit, etc. The Third Committee occupied itself almost solely with the Report of the Temporary Mixed Commission for the Reduction of Armaments. From the point of view of the great powers, this was considered to be the most important question dealt with. From our own point of view, however, it had but a secondary interest. In connection with this Committee, a Jurists' Drafting Committee was appointed, consisting of eight of the most competent lawyers, amongst the Delegates. Mr. Kennedy was specially invited to sit on the Jurists' Committee and, after his departure, he was replaced by Mr. Kevin O'Shiel.

The Fourth Committee dealt with the Budget of the League and all financial matters appertaining thereto. Outside of the technical and economic aspect of the question considered there was little room for the intervention of our representative except in the question of Near East Refugees and in support of a scheme for the establishment of an International University Information Office, in connection with the League. The question of Intellectual Co-operation was dealt with by the Fifth Committee and, owing to the intervention of our representative there, Irish culture was recognised and it is possible that it will, at a later date, be represented on the Committee of Intellectual Co-operation. The Sixth Committee treated political questions, minorities, boundaries, etc. Outside of the Finnish demand concerning Eastern Carelia, which had our support, there was nothing of any particular interest before it.

With regard to the whole Irish Delegation, its work at the Assembly and on the Commissions, it was remarked that everything was businesslike and went off as it should. There was no hitch or faux pas that could be attributed to it by its severest critics.

1Handwritten note on top right hand corner: 'Original handed to Minister 13/11/23'.

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