No. 207 NAI DFA 26/56

Extract from a letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(14th Ass./7)

Geneva, 7 September 1933

Presidency of the Assembly

It is still impossible to state with any confidence who will be selected as President of the Assembly. I believe a good deal of manoeuvring is going on, but I am told that as far as the Great Powers are concerned, there has been no indication of their attitude.

[matter omitted]

President de Valera's name has been mentioned, as I previously reported. Amongst those who have done so and have pressed his candidature is Prof. Noel-Baker, formerly Parliamentary Secretary to the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Henderson), and one of the President's many admirers here. He has considerable influence with the more advanced people in League circles and notably with the Scandinavian powers. Mr. Walters, Under-Secretary General and Director of the Political Section also showed himself very favourably disposed, but drew my attention to some of the difficulties including the non-European question. He, of course, took no definite position with regard to the question. The Hungarian Minister and the French Minister at Geneva, when the various candidates were mentioned to them, said they believed their governments would have no hesitation in selecting the Irish President. I have also very discreetly mooted the question in other quarters, always of course as a proposal which had been put to me and in which I was naturally interested, but was not initiating.

The past couple of weeks in Geneva have seen a few of the permanent delegates return, but, as there have been no big conferences, contacts have been comparatively few. The prospect of contacts will increase now from day to day. I frankly cannot form any definite view yet as to the prospects. I do not like at present to recommend action at the other Legations, although it would be extremely useful, if you thought the situation warranted it, to sound Paris and Berlin, if not London. I may be said to have initiated the inquiry at Paris and hope to have an opportunity to do so with regard to Berlin, through Mr. Avenol and Herr Trendlenburg at the Secretariat.

I believe the Foreign Office in London will not be ignorant of the fact that the President's name has been suggested, as Mr. Walters himself mentioned the matter to me. My cautiousness has been due to a desire not to present the President in any way as having had his candidature posed by his own representative and unsuccessfully. At the same time, I will hold myself ready when the situation clears a little to exercise my discretion to push harder, but always, of course, with caution. If the prospects are reasonably good, it will help at a later period to stake Ireland's claim for this particular honour.

The solid South American group is a big consideration, and normally we would have a great many friends amongst them, but the intervention of an American candidate would make that impossible, in the first instance at any rate, while the smaller European States (of the so-called 'neutrals') would also be a source of strength to us, but the opportunity to make a gesture towards the so-called defeated Powers may make that situation also uncertain. I am inclined to believe that we would get the Dominions without much trouble, especially in view of the line which has been adopted with regard to Australia's candidature for the Council.

The situation will not clear up for some time. You will see that I am very far from being able to forecast the election of the President, and I have inclined towards giving the fullest weight to the difficulties.

[signed] Seán Lester

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