No. 61 UCDA P80/557

Letter from Edward J. Phelan to Desmond FitzGerald (Dublin)

Geneva, 18 February 1927

My dear Desmond,

I would have written to you long ago, but my excuse is 'flu' - either having it or doing the work of those who succumbed when I recovered. However I hope it's not too late to congratulate you on the results of the Imperial Conference and in particular on the appointment of a U.S. Minister to Dublin1 which I take it is really one of them. It is I think extremely important. It completes the Smiddy appointment, which was an anomaly so long as the U.S. did not reciprocate, and it establishes our right of Legation beyond challenge. The report of the Imperial Conference on the constitutional issue was almost too successful and Hertzog, like all converts, a little too enthusiastic about his new found faith. By that I don't mean that he hadn't reason to be. I only mean that his unlimited satisfaction makes it difficult for anyone else to be less satisfied. The declaration of equality and the G.[overnor] G.[eneral] paragraphs are excellent. I take it we're really safe on the rights of Dominions Ministers to advise the King on Dominion affairs, though I seem to see the hand of Balfour2 in its ambiguous drafting. The right of Dominion Ministers to advise is admitted. His Majesty's Government in Great Britain may not advise against the views of the Government of a Dominion. But in the text there is nothing to prevent them advising concurrently on a matter which concerns a Dominion alone. I take it this is not what was meant, nor the interpretation which you will allow to be adopted in practice.

I must say the para[graph] relating to the 'inter se' clause in League Treaties, to me is unintelligible. The Imperial Conference cannot amend the Covenant. The Covenant does not provide for two classes of Members of the League. And League Treaties are binding on all members who ratify them unless there is an 'inter se' clause. How the Imperial Conference could decide that they weren't and that the 'inter se' is superfluous beats me. My other points of criticism are on the Court and on Mandates. The Mandates are a trust from the League, not from the Imperial Conference, and it is to the former and not to the latter that the Mandatories should render an account of their stewardship. I imagine it is quite likely that you agree and I know that in a conference one can't get all one wants. I mention my criticisms of the report simply because I may make them from time to time, and perhaps others when I've had time to study the report more fully, and to congratulate you on the report as a whole and to criticise parts of it to others might seem inconsistent, if not worse. I gather from the press that you circulated a white paper or some such document to the Dáil, I presume with the text of the report and your commentary. Would you mind getting your Department to send me a copy. It may conceivably answer some of my criticisms.

I suppose you know Sir Austen has announced his intention of making a statement to the Council of the League on the subject. I don't like Austen talking in the Council on behalf of all the Dominions and anyway I hope it will be an agreed statement, as I wouldn't trust a Foreign Office paraphrase of the Report. The Council meets on the 7th March. I should have thought the Assembly would have been more suitable if a statement was to be made to the League, as the Dominions being present could have dotted the i's and crossed the t's if necessary.

Cheerio! I hope I may get over some time in the summer to talk over these and other things with you. If not I'll have to wait for theAssembly. Remember me to Kevin,3 Blythe, McGilligan, Joe Walshe, Dermot4 and the other Assemblyites. I hope they all flourish. I see Heléne occasionally. She asks me when I write to remember her to Monsieur Feetzgerald.

With all best wishes,

E.J. Phelan

P.S. Don't forget to send me the White Paper.

[initialled] E.J.P.

1 Frederick E. Sterling was appointed as United States Minister to the Irish Free State on 19 February 1927.

2 Arthur Balfour.

3 Kevin O'Higgins.

4 Diarmuid O'Hegarty.

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