No. 117 NAI DFA ES Box 6 File 38

Memorandum by the Department of External Affairs on the status of the Irish Free State

Dublin, undated, 1927



1. Before the Treaty of Versailles the Dominions although internally free from all interference by the British Parliament were nevertheless almost entirely without recognition as units in the family of nations.

At the Treaty of Versailles they obtained a form of international status by being co-signatories of the Treaty and by being made original members of the League of Nations.


2. At the date of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Canada was already ahead of the other States of the Commonwealth in asserting her international position, and the Irish negotiators selected the then constitutional position of Canada as the point from which our own constitutional position should evolve.


3. Less than two years after the establishment of the Saorstát our Government took a definite step forward in the direction of complete international status by appointing a Minister Plenipotentiary to Washington. The United States has recently completed her recognition of our independent position by sending a Minister to Dublin. Only independent sovereign states send and receive ministers.


4. At the Imperial Conference the Irish Delegation pressed for the removal of all forms and precedents which appeared to derogate from the actual position of the Commonwealth States other than Great Britain. The full powers issued to the British Delegates at the Treaty of Versailles were issued to them as Delegates of the British Empire and they extended to the whole Commonwealth though issued on the advice of the British Government alone. In future at international conferences the British full powers will be restricted to Great Britain and her immediate dependencies and the other States of the Commonwealth will hold powers complete and exclusive in themselves, issued on the sole advice of their own Government.


5. At the recent Naval Conference at Geneva the Saorstát and the other States of the Commonwealth held precisely the same form of powers as America and Japan and for the first time at an international conference they were represented as completely independent states.


6. The position of the Crown in the Commonwealth of Nations was made definitely clear. The Crown in England is the Sovereign acting on the advice of the English Ministers. In Canada, it is the Sovereign acting on the advice of the Canadian Ministers. There is no longer a British Crown in the old sense as far as the Dominions are concerned. The Act of the Sovereign in signing Bills is the convention used in limited monarchies for expressing the majority will of the people as advised by their Ministers. The Sovereign in modern states represents nothing more than the will of the people and oaths of fealty to the Sovereign are oaths to be faithful to the majority will.


7. The position of the Dominion Governments as defined by the Conference is one of complete equality with Great Britain and hence with all other world states. The majority will of the people of any State of the Commonwealth is the supreme arbiter in that State's affairs because it can never be manifested except on the advice of the people's ministers.

There are still forms and statutes in contradiction with this fundamental constitutional principle, but arrangements were made by the Conference to set up a Committee for the purpose of eliminating these anomalies. Conciliation and co-operation are the surest means of strengthening our position within and without the Commonwealth. That is the road to national prestige and prosperity and it can only be followed by a government of Irishmen whose policy is based on the Constitution.

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