No. 340 NAI DFA 26/95

Letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Geneva, 13 February 1930

A Chara,

Saorstát and the League Council

Further to my letter of the 4th February1 and previous correspondence on this subject, I beg to report having in a conversation with the Secretary General mentioned the candidature of the Irish Free State.

I began by saying that, as he knew, the Irish Free State would be a candidate at the next election, that I had not received any instructions from my Government on the matter since the Delegation left Geneva in September but that it occurred to me to have a few words with him about the situation.

Sir Eric Drummond said he would like to speak quite frankly with me on this subject and to preface his remarks by saying that he personally would be very pleased indeed to see Ireland on the Council. There were some other League factors which, however, he had very much in mind. There was the question of grouping, the fact that if groups were to be maintained some arrangement must be made for States at present outside. The Little Entente was too small in number to be allowed to retain a seat for three countries. Most likely Bulgaria, Austria, Greece and probably Hungary would be admitted to that Group. The Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania should and probably would be admitted to the Scandinavian group. Portugal, outside all groups, would like to have the prospect of a Council seat. Unless the seat held by Canada ceased to be regarded as a Dominion seat, she would have little likelihood of election. But there was another question which was in his mind, more important, and which had a direct bearing on the question of Ireland's election next September. It was the position in regard to China. China for some time would be the principal world problem. She was at the parting of the ways. To her three orientations were possible; one towards the United States of America; one towards Russia; and one towards Europe, which very distinctly in the Chinese mind meant the League. He believed that circumstances had caused the Chinese Government definitely to reject the American prospect. That left Russia and the League. This year would, in his opinion, see a choice made, but he hoped to have more precise information as to the Chinese outlook in the course of a few months. If China were 'turned down' by the Assembly (in a re-eligibility vote) this year, he feared she would turn towards Russia. That, he thought, would be very undesirable from the League point of view. The vacating of a seat by Persia in 1931 would probably be too late. If the Irish Government waited until the Persian seat became available he thought that in those circumstances our candidature would have become stronger and election pretty certain. The reservation of a seat exclusively for the Dominions (the other Dominions!) would also have disappeared by the intervention between Canada and Ireland of another State for one year; and the Portuguese case would thus also be met. Of course, if China did not pay off her arrears of contributions, there would be no prospect of her election, and his views were entirely subject to that being done.

I think this is a fair summary of the Secretary-General's views. I told him I should report them to the Minister for External Affairs, and he asked that I should, in doing so, mention that he had said something in a similar strain to one of the Australian delegates and that personally he should be very happy to see Ireland on the Council.

I did not encourage him to expect any change in the Saorstát's decision.

Mise, le meas,
[signed] Seán Lester

1 See No. 334.

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