No. 150 NAI DFA ES Box 241 File 240

Edward J. Phelan to Hugh Kennedy (Dublin)
(Personal and Urgent)

GENEVA, 26 October 1923

Dear Attorney General

I am sending you herewith a copy of a document which was received by the I.L.O. this morning.1

It is a ratification of an amendment to the Treaty of Versailles which was adopted by the International Labour Conference and which is effected in virtue of Article 422 of that Treaty to which you can refer.

The text of the amendment and of the protocol which embodies it for the convenience of those Members of the League who prefer a process of signature as a preliminary to ratification may be found in the Official Bulletin of the I.L.O.

I asked the British Delegation if it was meant to be a ratification binding the whole Empire including the Free State. They said they thought it was. I pointed out that an en bloc ratification raised certain difficulties as regards the I.L.O. Were we to count it as one ratification or as seven, in order to calculate the total of ratifications necessary to bring the amendment into effect? They asked me to suspend publication until they could consult London.

You will remember I told you when you were in Geneva that Cecil had signed this Protocol for the 'British Empire' but that I thought it could be argued that his signature only covered the Empire in so far as it was in the League, and at the date of his signature An Saorstát was not a member. The Dominions have since also signed. Thus the same game has been played as at Versailles. The Dominions have insisted on separate signature and the Foreign Office has countered them by a unique ratification.

But as regards the Free State the position is infinitely more grave. The Free State has not even been given any opportunity of deciding whether it is in favour of the amendment or not. It might be opposed to it.

If London replies that this ratification covers the Free State the whole of our international status disappears and the value of the Treaty with England is seriously compromised unless such action is immediately challenged.

I will inform you immediately we receive the London reply and I would suggest that if it is to the effect that the Free State is covered we should immediately create a precedent on the other side by an individual ratification of say the Court Convention by the procedure of an Act of the Oireachtas authorising the President to ratify or by some other similar procedure.

In any case I would hope that we should decide to proceed to an individual ratification of the Court Convention or of some other convention as soon as possible as the longer we wait the greater is the danger of a precedent being made against us, as I greatly fear may now prove to be the case.

Forgive this hurried note. We are in the throes of the last days of the Conference2 and working all night. The Irish delegation have made a good impression though of course they were very upset at the tragic end of Senator McPartlin.3

I hope your election goes well. I am expecting that as soon as you are free from its preoccupations you will let me know if you agree with the proofs I sent you about the beginning of the month for the second edition of the Treaty pamphlet. I hope you got them all right.

With best wishes
Yours very sincerely,
[signed] E.J. PHELAN

1Not Printed.

2The International Labour Conference.

3Senator McPartlin died while attending the International Labour Conference in Geneva on 20 October 1923. He was the first member of the Irish Free State senate to die in office.

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