No. 107 NAI DFA LN 4/7

Letter from Michael MacWhite to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(M.L. 04/020)

Geneva, 5 August 1927

A Chara,

At a meeting of the Commonwealth delegates held on Monday last, Mr. Bridgeman stated that he considered it very important that they should present a united front and he would be glad if some of his Colleagues representing the Governments of the Dominions would speak at the meeting: alternately they might select one or two of their members to speak, or again they might like him to state that all his Colleagues were in agreement with him.

After the meeting, I talked to Mr. Smit and suggested that we should discuss the matter with Mr. Lapointe. In the meantime, I sent my first telegram (August 1st)1 to you. After lunch, Mr. Lapointe saw Mr. Smit and said he had drafted a letter which he intended sending to Mr. Bridgeman to the effect that the First Lord should speak in the name of Great Britain and India and add that he was authorised by the delegates representing H.M. Governments in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Irish Free State that they were in general agreement with his statement.

As Mr. Lapointe was leaving Geneva on Monday afternoon he had not had time to see me, but Dr. Riddell came and read me a copy of the letter to the First Lord.2 I told him that I was in communication with my Government on the matter.

In order to be perfectly sure of our position, I wired you again on the 3rd inst. and your reply left no doubt as to what my line of action at the plenary meeting should be.

On receipt of your first telegram on the matter, I informed Mr. Smit of the attitude I was to take, Mr. Lapointe being absent, the former could not, very well, change his position then, as he had already agreed to Mr. Lapointe's suggestion.

There was a further meeting of the Commonwealth delegates yesterday morning. Before it started, I told Mr. Bridgeman and Mr. Lapointe what my instructions were and the substance of the statement I was authorised to make. The First Lord asked me to explain it at the meeting, which I did.

The First Lord then said that he thought we were all agreed that he was to speak for us as he had a letter to that effect from Mr. Lapointe, to which the latter replied that he was only speaking for himself alone. The discussion then went on as to the procedure to be adopted, but it was agreed that I should be called upon to speak after Mr. Bridgeman and someone suggested to 'express agreement with his statement', but I took no notice of this remark, as I had already mentioned to the meeting what I was instructed to say. The remark was however recorded in the minutes.

At the Plenary meeting of the Conference held yesterday afternoon, I was called upon immediately after the First Lord had finished his statement and spoke as follows:


'Mr. Michael MacWhite (Irish Free State):

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen. On behalf of the Government of the Irish Free State, I wish to express my deep regret that it has not been found possible during the discussions which have taken place at this Conference to reach an agreement that should be considered as satisfactory to all the parties concerned.

      The question of disarmament is an extremely difficult one to solve, much more so than is generally realised. The difficulties, however, that have been encountered here were not of such a nature as to discourage the efforts to bring about further limitation. My Government, therefore, sincerely hopes that another opportunity will soon present itself when an agreement leading to limitation and ultimate disarmament will result'.

After the Plenary meeting had terminated, I gathered from those present that my statement had made a profound impression on the audience, not so much because of what it contained, but of what it implied and, particularly, because I stood apart from Great Britain and the Dominions of whom Mr. Bridgeman was the spokesman. The Americans interpreted our attitude as being favourable to themselves, and I have no doubt but they will make the most of it when they get home. It might be possible for us also to exploit it to our advantage in the United States.

The Swiss Press this morning, in describing the final sitting of the Conference, refers to the delegates of the United States of America, of 'Great Britain, the Dominions and the Irish Free State', etc, in which it may be remarked our place is one of special importance.

A well known Japanese Jurist said to me: 'The Conference has been a failure for all except the Irish. They have used it to assert their international status, in which they have fully succeeded'.

Mise, le meas,
[signed] M. MacWhite

1 Not printed.

2 William Bridgeman.

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