No. 325 UCDA P35D/19

Handwritten letter from Seán Lester to Patrick McGilligan (Dublin)

Geneva, 16 January 1930

My dear Paddy,

Elsie1 gives me a message from Ann2 to write to you about Geneva. I haven't any notion what she said in her letter but I have been feeling depressed - none the less for understanding fully the office situation at home - that nothing appears yet to have been done about my position here. My views are as I expressed them to you in September but there is no word of any decision by Finance on the proposed representation allowance. I don't even know what the prospects for same may be. I keep things going here in a sort of way by spending the rent of 45. Entertainment is of course out of the question so one cannot ask these people to join a family meal. As a result I am very much handicapped in getting 'on terms' with people and grudge the passing weeks and months. I foresaw all this, of course, and detest writing these beastly letters about money. I wrote to Joe after Xmas but the Nuncio has I suppose absorbed his time since then. He might misunderstand my writing to you and I wouldn't have dreamt of it only you asked me and I don't want you to misunderstand.

Then the Council candidature - O'Kelly hadn't heard of it at Xmas and now seems to have had a general instruction to canvass openly all ministers at Paris - I haven't been informed but when he told me he was in need of general information I asked Phelan to call on him when passing thro' Paris. I know how the London Conference of Oct. Nov. would throw the whole Dept. out of gear but I also fear that the Imperial Conference this year will entirely overshadow the Council candidature all the year. I feel that if we are to replace Canada, there will have to be a continuous and energetic, and concerted movement from every angle abroad - O'Kelly, Binchy, Bewley, MacWhite as well as Geneva - and co-ordinated by Headquarters. Indeed I feel strongly on this question of co-ordination (apart from the Council). We shall reap little, I often think, from the isolated actions of even the most brilliant representatives, compared with what may be done by really good team work - involving the fullest exchange of information between every point in the machine - following up at Berlin or Paris or Geneva what has been done at Rome or Washington or Dublin or London.

But to return to the personal matter. The men at Paris, Rome and Berlin have more than twice as much as I - not in salary which is personal but in allowances for the post. Indeed, the secretaries at these places have larger allowances. Not a penny representation allowance is made for Geneva, and even the local allowance is not in proportion to that made to the secretaries elsewhere.

I don't see why there should be these differences. The trouble at the root is that Geneva remains on the old basis - and that Finance considers that an excellent arrangement!

It makes the position here often humiliating and even a quick sympathy with harried ministers and secretaries and such folk doesn't prevent me watching the post for news on the prospects!

Please tear this up, Paddy, for Joe might think I am going behind his back. I only refresh your mind on our talk in September.

I did come here on an understanding that the time would be limited. That was because I saw how impossible the financial position would be on the terms proposed and because I knew how difficult any amendment would be. With a decent representation allowance the time question disappears (if I knew, for example that I was to be here for a time I would sell the house, and some furniture, storing the rest). There is so much to be learned in our work - and always will be - and there is the profound satisfaction of feeling it is well worth one's enthusiasm; and Geneva seems to me to be a post of responsibility, and of opportunity, and of honour.

Seán Lester

1 Elizabeth 'Elsie' Lester (née Tyrrell), Lester's wife (married 1920).

2 Annie McGilligan (née Connolly) (1904-90), McGilligan's wife (married 1929).

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