No. 334 NAI DFA 26/95

Letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(X.12/11) (Confidential) (Copy)

Geneva, 4 February 1930

A Chara,

Re Saorstát's Candidature for the Council

I beg to refer to my previous letters on this subject.

I understand that there were some conversations at Geneva during the meeting of the Council between Mr. Henderson, Mr. Dalton1 (Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs), Mr. Cadogan,2 Senator Dandurand and Dr. Riddell (Canada). These did not take a formal shape as at a meeting, it appears, but the matter was mentioned from time to time. I have talked to Dr. Riddell and gather from him that there was a general feeling that the question of a Dominion candidature should be definitely agreed upon as soon as, and if, possible. Mr. Dalton said that an inquiry had been made as to whether the new Australian Government was going forward for the Council and that London had been told the Prime Minister of Australia was not greatly interested. If Australia withdrew her suggested candidature, Great Britain would back Ireland to the greatest extent. A similar view was expressed by Mr. Henderson. I am not able to estimate with what degree of cordiality this opinion was expressed, but I do not think that that matters a great deal. I believe that if we go forward as the only Dominion, we shall have British support. They might prefer to have Australia either on grounds of precedence, or as more likely to support them in any emergency, but the Foreign Office, I suggest, has come to the conclusion that a Dominion seat has a distinct value to them and that, moreover, the defeat of the Irish Free State would be taken as a set-back to the British Commonwealth as a whole. Whatever the causes, the immediate effect is the same, that as the only Dominion candidate we would have British support.

The situation with regard to the vacancy to be caused by the retirement of Canada is viewed in the Secretariat as an opportunity - and the last one - of keeping an 'open seat'. All the elective seats are, I think, already allocated to groups. Some of the States outside groups are Greece, Holland, Siam, China, Bulgaria, Portugal, etc. It is possible that Bulgaria and Greece may be admitted to the Little Entente group for the purpose of the Council; and Holland to the Scandinavian group. Portugal and Greece are both anxious to be elected. China will urge her case for re-eligibility and if she gets this admitted by the Assembly she will assuredly be elected to replace Canada. My information is that the Secretary General strongly favours the Canadian seat remaining 'open', holds that the world situation requires China in the Council and that we may count upon his influence being so directed. (It is another question as to whether that influence is great or little in regard to elections, and another still, if a genuinely wholehearted backing from London would not modify Sir Eric Drummond's attitude.) If this information as to Drummond's attitude is correct, and it is reported to me by Dr. Riddell as the substance of a private expression of opinion by Sir Eric of his views, there is all the more urgency for our campaign to be well coordinated and continuously pressed from every possible quarter. I have not had any letter from you on the subject, but assume, of course, that the decision announced last September of the Saorstát's candidature stands. May I suggest that soundings be made in London as to the position of the British vis-à-vis our candidature; that similar inquiries be made at the Dominions capitals; that directions be given simultaneously to all representatives abroad for a campaign on a definite plan; that information as to the views expressed in regard to each State's attitude should be coordinated and every representative fully advised thereon from time to time; that the campaign must aim also, as a necessity, at the defeat of China's reported move at the next Assembly.

A decision may also be necessary, and perhaps before approaching London, Pretoria, Canberra, etc, as to whether we go forward as a group candidate or as an independent playing our own hand. As to this point, it seems to me that Canada and the Saorstát, the former because of her geographical position in North America as well as her increasing industrial importance, and the latter as a European State known for its independent views and likely give a fair hearing to, and advocacy of, the interests of the small States, have less to gain from the group system than Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The fear of a second British vote is not generally felt regarding the Saorstát. These factors are not appreciated with regard to the other Dominions and I venture to say that the only hope any of them has of membership of the Council depends upon the election next September of the Saorstát as a Dominion candidate. They have all to gain by our election. I may be wrong but I do not think that Australia would be elected even with British support and even without the Saorstát in the field. I have no clear opinion as to the result between Australia, the Saorstát and other candidates: in that case, Britain might swing against us (and for Australia) sufficient votes to defeat us, while not electing their own candidate. In that case, the so-called Dominion seat would disappear. If in any circumstances we are a defeated candidate at the next Assembly, I fear our prospects of election will recede for ten years or more.

Going back to China's renewed claim for re-eligibility, may I informatively recall, first, her vast unpaid contribution, and secondly, that the seat held by Persia at present to be vacated in 1931 might be suggested as an oriental seat for which China could be elected in due course.

I was with Sir Eric Drummond to-day on other matters, but time was very limited and I did not speak of the Council. Perhaps I shall find an opportunity of doing so next week.

Mise, le meas,
[copy letter unsigned]

1 Hugh Dalton.

2 Alexander Cadogan (1884-1968), Head of the League of Nations Section at the British Foreign Office, later Permanent Under-Secretary (1938-46).

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