No. 435 NAI DFA Unregistered Papers

Statement by Patrick McGilligan to the opening session of the 1930 Imperial Conference

London, 1 October 1930

Mr. McGilligan: Mr. Prime Minister and Gentlemen - I desire to thank you most heartily for the kindly words which have fallen from you welcoming us to this Conference and for the courtesy and hospitality extended to us.


Tributes to Mr. O'Higgins, Lord Balfour and Lord Birkenhead

Other speakers have paid a tribute to the three statesmen who have passed away since 1926; I feel sure that I shall be pardoned if I refer, first of the three, to Mr. O'Higgins. In his death our country lost a man of genius, of courage and unstinting devotion, one who not only guided the State in its normal life but who was one of the great artisans who created the State that we represent here. Lord Balfour we met only in 1926 when he was already well advanced in years. During his lifetime a complete and radical change had taken place in political matters, but the passing of the years had not cramped his mental powers. The Report of 1926 - a report which might have been unthinkable during his earlier life - was his work, and it will always be recognised as one of the great landmarks in the development of the position of those States forming the British Commonwealth. Of Lord Birkenhead, I shall say only this - that we had the opportunity to recognise the great gifts with which he was endowed. But the thought that is uppermost in our minds to-day is that nine years ago he gave his brain and his heart to bringing about peace between his people and ours by the Treaty of 1921. The news of his death is for us not merely the news of the death of a great man, but of a friend. The members of the Irish Delegation are very glad to have the opportunity afforded by this Conference of meeting once more the delegations of the Nations of the Commonwealth and of discussing with them matters of special interest to us all.


The Economic Position

The extent to which our free co-operation in the Commonwealth has gone and the friendly relations so established impose upon us the duty of taking a deep interest in each other's welfare. The prosperity of the group as a whole, dependent upon orderly and balanced economic life in each Nation of the group, has a direct bearing on the happiness and welfare of every individual citizen in all our countries. The Government of the Irish Free State appreciate the seriousness of the grave economic difficulties which beset the world and which have had special and unfortunate impact upon some Members of the Commonwealth. While we in the Irish Free State have not escaped the repercussions of the depression affecting this country, we can claim that with a steady growth and diversity in our international life we still maintain our position as the second-best customer that this country has on a per capita basis of purchase and as the fifth of her customers on gross purchases. We are most anxious to make a serious study of the existing situation and to aid in the elaboration of principles which would guide the Members of the Commonwealth in their mutual economic agreements.


Need for Recognition of the Constitutional Position

But when speaking of trade relations as Delegate of the Irish Free State, I must not forget to remind you that there are things of a different order which we value and always have valued most sincerely and most passionately. For us the recognition of our position as a free and sovereign State comes before all other considerations. We desire to be able to devote ourselves entirely to the development of the prosperity of our people and to co-operation with the other Governments of the Commonwealth in raising the level of human happiness in other countries. While certain elements of the old system of Imperial control were maintained, even though it was only in form, the will to co-operate was correspondingly weakened. We most earnestly urge upon the present Conference the need of removing finally those last obstacles to harmonious and easy intercourse. So long as any form of control remained co-operation had to be tinged with some colouring of compulsion. That made it less wholehearted and less effective.

I should not be frank with you if at this juncture I did not definitely place before you in what seems to my Government to be the proper perspective the considerations which should govern the proceedings of this Conference.


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