No. 187 NAI DT S3452

Memorandum on Edward J. Phelan's letter of 17 January 1924

Dublin, undated

With regard to the ratification by the British Government of Article 393 of the Treaty of Versailles, the first intimation the Irish Government received was by the despatch from the Colonial Office No: 695 of the 6th December 1923.1 A reply was sent to that despatch on the 22nd December2 asking the British Government to make it known that this ratification did not extend to the Irish Free State. On the 22nd January a reply was received from the British3 stating that as the amendment was to affect the Treaty of Versailles it was necessary that the ratification should extend to the whole Empire. A draft despatch has now been prepared asking the British Government to get the King to issue a separate ratification in respect of the Free State.

Mr Phelan is incorrect in stating that the Irish Free State is to be considered as covered by all the British ratifications of League Treaties communicated before the Free State became a member of the League. In two instances at least Ireland is not included in the ratification namely:-

The Convention concerning the rights of Association and combination of Agricultural workers adopted at Geneva in 1921.

The Convention concerning Workmen's Compensation in Agriculture adopted at Geneva, November 1921.

Conventions adopted in 1919 & 1920 have been ratified in respect of Great Britain and Ireland. This is of course true of all Treaties and Conventions made before the establishment of the Irish Free State.

With regard to the Labour Conventions which Mr Phelan says the League have refused to communicate to the Free State. We have received most of these Conventions from the British. I do not think that the attitude of the League can be objected to, as only members are entitled to be supplied with copies of the Conventions, and I presume that as we were not members at the time these Conventions were made we can hardly claim copies of these Conventions as of right.

Mr Phelan states that in a little time an announcement will be made that the Irish Free State is a party to a certain number of Conventions on which it was never consulted. This will probably happen, but there is no means of changing the position, as we are undoubtedly bound by certain Conventions which were made before the establishment of the Irish Free State. The Barcelona Convention is one of these. It is unfortunate that it is the first Convention into which the 'Inter Se' clause was introduced. The British have been asked for an interpretation of this clause, but as at the moment we are not in possession of an exact interpretation, it is difficult to say whether it is more harmful to our prestige than the Washington Treaty by which we are likewise bound. Recently Conventions have been signed at Geneva to which the Irish Free State was a party, into which a clause was introduced modifying the 'Inter Se' clause to the effect that:

'Nothing in the preceding articles is to be construed as affecting in any way the rights or duties of a contracting State as member of the League of Nations.'

This clause at least safeguards our rights as a member of the League.

Mr Phelan suggests that we should pursue actively an immediate policy of staking out the Status which we won by the Treaty before it is whittled down. Since the establishment of the Free State the status acquired under the Treaty has been in no way diminished. Mr Phelan has a wrong impression of our position under the Treaty. He seems to think that we are quite free to act as we please with regard to Treaties and Conventions made before the establishment of the Free State, this of course is not the case. The Treaties which he considers diminish our status were made before we had any status. We can withdraw from certain of these Conventions and Treaties on giving the prescribed notice, but in the majority of cases such withdrawal at the moment would not be beneficial. The reference to the Status of the Six Counties is very vague and it is difficult to gather from Mr Phelan's letter in what capacity the Six Counties would be represented in the International Institutions.

If questions are raised in the Dáil with regard to Labour Conventions by which we are bound owing to British Ratification before our entry into the League of Nations, they would seem to be answerable by the statement that we are in the same position with regard to these Conventions as to outside Treaties which we have inherited owing to our position prior to the Treaty.

1Not printed.

2See No. 178 above.

3Not printed.

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