No. 143 UCDA P4/897

Edward J. Phelan to Hugh Kennedy (Dublin)

GENEVA, 6 October 1923

Dear Attorney General

I have just seen in the Freeman that you are likely to become a member of the Dáil. My best wishes and congratulations.

I have also seen Darrell Figgis' question about the registration of the Treaty and the President's answer. In connection therewith:- I have recently been having the League records examined in order to prepare a statement for our forthcoming conference concerning the signature and ratification of the amendment to Art. 393 of the Treaty1 and I have incidentally had my attention drawn to two interesting facts. First of all you remember that during the Assembly Cecil2 signed the said amendment for the 'British Empire'. It seems that all the Dominions have since signed separately. 'British Empire' must therefore be taken to mean Great Britain and those parts of the Empire not separately represented in the League. The Dominions were apparently more watchful than I thought. I think it may be taken as certain that they signed in virtue of their proper powers and that no 'powers' were issued to them by the F.O. Secondly the member of my staff who was examining the protocol of amendment, which is of course the original, was able to inspect a number of registered Treaties. The form is almost uniformly as follows. Each certified copy is accompanied by a letter to the Secretary General more or less in these terms:- 'In accordance with Article 18 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, I have the honour to forward herewith a certified copy of the Treaty between ? and ? signed at ? the ? day of etc. and to request you to register it in conformity with the stipulations of the abovementioned Article'. The letter is signed by a Minister and the copy of the Treaty is certified in a very simple formula which states that it is an exact copy. This declaration typed on the last page of the Treaty is also signed by a Minister.

It is also interesting that the Treaty Registration Official mentioned the Irish Treaty and said that if it were presented, in his opinion it would have to be registered. This of course was only an opinion expressed in conversation between two non-British officials dealing at the moment with another function of the registration department. But it was expressed spontaneously and is therefore interesting.

By the way[,] there are six precedents for the registration of a Treaty between two parts of the British Empire, or perhaps it would be better to say a sixfold precedent. India and Great Britain have each ratified six of our Labour conventions, Unemployment, Night Work of Women, Minimum Age, Rights of Association, Minimum Age for Stokers, Medical Examination for Young persons at Sea. These conventions are all registered with the League under Article 18. The ratifications are all given in accordance with Article 405 of the Treaty which states that they shall be 'formal ratifications'. If you find the point interesting I can send you fuller details and references to texts in the Official Bulletin. I don't imagine however that there will be any legal argument on the question if it should be decided to register. As a matter of fact Article 18 would seem to make it a clear obligation.

I was a little disturbed by a paragraph in the 'Freeman' of 3rd Oct. stating that the Free State had approved & thus become a party to an Anglo-French Convention on Oyster Fishing. No indication of the procedure was given and the report is perhaps inaccurate. It seems to me a case where an awkward precedent might be created if we are not careful.

I read with great interest the G.[overnor] G[eneral]'s speech. I imagine I can see your hand in one or two touches of constitutional interest.

With kindest regards
Yours very sincerely
[signed] E.J. PHELAN

1Treaty of Versailles.

2Lord Robert Cecil, British delegate to the League of Nations.

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