No. 54 UCDA P4/856

Kevin O’Shiel to each member of the Executive Council

DUBLIN, 29 March 1923


A Chara,

1. I send you a further Memo.1 on the League of Nations prepared at my request by our Mr. Waller, and I would ask you to attach it to your File and study it most carefully in conjunction with the preceding Memoranda.

2. The Memo speaks eloquently for itself and I do not intend to do more than draw your particular attention to certain very interesting and important points raised in it.

3. The Question of Expense
Mr. Waller is at present investigating more closely the important matter of expense in connection with joining the League. On page 4 he shows the present method of dividing the annual expenditure incurred by the League into numbers of payable units and then assessing groups of those units to the various Member-Nations. This would go to show that the question of expense is largely arbitrary and dependent wholly on the League's annual expenditure.

It is probable that we will be assessed in the degree of the Nations shown in the table on page 4, which correspond to our size, viz., the group, Netherlands and South Africa at 15 units, and the group, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Peru and Switzerland at 10 units; or Finland at 5 units. On this table a unit would appear to represent £878.10.

There is no reason why we should be called upon to contribute more than the Republic of Finland, a Nation resembling us very nearly in many ways. It is almost exactly our size in population, and is in a similar category to us in as much as it has, after a long servitude, only enjoyed freedom within recent years. Also, it has had a trying time of civil warfare with its native Bolshevik 'Irregulars' before it settled down to ordered and regular government.

Doubtless, these were the reasons why it was let off so lightly. Our case is just as strong and it is not likely that we will be called upon to pay at the same rate as countries which have enjoyed years of settled and ordered government. If these arguments hold good our subscription to the League annually should not exceed £4,392.10 at the current rate.

4. Minorities
It will be noted (on page 8) that certain minorities in European countries have been put under the special protection of the League. This is valuable, as it is possible under this heading, should the worst come to the worst, to make such a case for the minorities within Northern Ireland that we could at least threaten to ventilate their grievances at the League.

We have a very strong case in this direction should we ever consider it politic to employ it, e.g., gerrymanderings, abolition of Proportional Representation, &c. &c.

Another strong point that we could raise in this connection is the parallel of the Lausanne Conference between Turkey and Greece, Great Britain and certain countries, which sat some time ago. At that Conference the question of the several large Christian minorities under Turkish rule came under review. Lord Curzon put forward as his solution that these homogeneous entities within the Turkish jurisdiction should be given autonomy. Kemal Pasha vigorously resisted this proposal, on the grounds that minorities in a State had no right of special audience or special treatment at an International Conference; that if they wanted such special treatment the proper authority for them to treat with was their own central and sovereign Government. Eventually, I think these minorities had to be content with Kemal's promises.

Now, the point is, if the official British solution for Christian minorities under heathen Turkish rule is that they are entitled to some small degree of autonomy and not to either (1) incorporation with a neighbouring Christian power or (2) independence on their own account - why should Northern Ireland be allowed by Britain to break completely away from Irish jurisdiction and incorporate itself with Great Britain?

In this case there is no question of throwing 'Ulster' under a non-Christian community; it is a case of two Christian communities[,] yet 'autonomy' is never suggested. The only remedy is secession for the minority.

This is a point I think we could raise with effect should the opportunity arise. I am having a Memo. prepared on the discussions and agreements in the Lausanne Treaty, which may throw more light on this interesting aspect of the question.

5. Northern Ireland
With regard to our special province of North-Eastern affairs, I am strongly of opinion that we should join the League next September.

Such action must greatly strengthen our case at the Boundary Commission. It has been pointed out that in view of Article 10 of the Covenant we may be compelled to recognise the 'status quo' at the time of our joining, which would mean the present jurisdiction of An Saorstát.

However, as against this it is pointed out

(1) That Article 10 of the Covenant is most indefinite and, although discussed, has never yet been authoritatively defined, and

(2) That the terms of the Treaty of London, 1921, recognising in effect our de jure right to the whole territory of Ireland and providing for a Boundary Commission, would completely over-rule Article 10. For this reason it might be advisable to register the Treaty under the Secretariat of the League.

Another aspect of this North-Eastern position is that by our joining the subordinate and petty status of Northern Ireland will be even more marked than at present. It is interesting to note in this connection that Sir James Craig has always been most anxious to send representatives from the Six Counties to the League of Nations.

On page 20 Mr. Waller recalls Mr. Lloyd George's letter to Sir James Craig stating that his area could not be admitted to the League because of its diminutive size, and of the fact of its not being 'fully self-governing'.

6. Our Status
Mr. Waller puts our case for joining the League very clearly. It is well known that the admission of the Dominions to the League of Nations as separate Member-States was achieved only after a very hard tussle indeed.

When the League was opened to the Dominions as separate Nations it was regarded as their greatest constitutional victory. By this fact they were admitted to be 'Nations' in the international sense, having impliedly, at all events, the several distinctive rights and privileges of Nations.

It is noteworthy too that they signed the Treaty of Versailles in their new distinctive capacity as 'Nations'; and their separate signature of that Treaty undoubtedly prepared the way, 'by Constitutional practice and procedure' for the novel and far-reaching action of Canada recently in signing a Treaty with the U.S.A. without the hitherto all-essential sign manual of the British Ambassador.

For all these and other reasons it appears to me that we should avail ourselves of our undoubted right as a Nation to join the League, especially as this right was only conceded to our sister Nations in the Commonwealth after a tough struggle.

The cost is nothing like as great as many people suppose. The greatest figure we could be charged on last year's estimates would be that chargeable to Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Peru and Switzerland, viz., £8,784 (i.e. 10 units). And it is quite reasonable to suppose, as I have pointed out, that we should get Finland's measure of £4,392.10.

This is surely an insignificant figure to pay to enable the Voice of Ireland to be raised and heard with effect once more in the Councils of the Nations of the World.

Assistant Legal Adviser

1Further to No. 52. The memo referred to is not printed.

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