No. 365 NAI DFA 26/119

Letter from Michael Rynne to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

Geneva, 25 September 1936

The Seventeenth Ordinary Session of the Assembly which opened on Monday, 21st September, has taken five days to reach its second item. This unusual delay was of course due to the presence in Geneva of a delegation empowered by Haile Selassié.1

It was necessary for the Credentials Committee to hold several meetings and to furnish two reports to the Assembly before this matter could be put out of the way. As you are aware, the effect of the recommendation of the Committee, which was duly adopted by the Assembly by 39 votes to 4 (the Irish Delegation voting, as instructed by you, with the majority) is to permit the representatives of Selassié to attend the present Assembly, while recognising the possibility that their powers may not be in order and without prejudice to the next Assembly's right to refuse their admittance if they apply on the strength of similar powers.

To judge from conversations here, including conversations with pressmen who might be supposed to be well informed and, perhaps, even impartial, one would be inclined to take the view that Italy has received a severe rebuff and that that rebuff has been due, first, to the force of world opinion in favour of Haile Selassié and secondly, to the power of anti-fascist influence working against Italy. However, as the mass of opinion in Geneva is strongly pro-League and anti-fascist, one may be excused for discounting most of the current rumours about Italy's latest 'defeat'.

At the risk of appearing to go to the opposite extreme, I would submit that the Assembly's action in regard to the delegates of Haile Selassié is less the result of a nebulous 'world opinion' than of a fairly precise and very voluble British public opinion which has compelled Mr. Eden to surrender any last-minute hope he may have secretly entertained of being able to dislodge the Ethiopians from the present Assembly. The suggestion that the Credentials Committee was more influenced by Litvinoff and Delbos, acting on anti-fascist grounds, than by Eden and Delbos acting on the persuasion of the former is, I think, not likely to be well founded. Doubtless, Litvinoff is not dismayed by an apparent rebuff which Italy cannot explain away, but it might be going too far to suggest - as is being suggested here - that the People's Commissar is triumphantly certain that the coming five-Power Conference must inevitably fail because of the League's action in regard to the Ethiopians.

Besides Litvinoff, Avenol appears to be, from another point of view, one of the scapegoats of this Assembly. I enclose a copy of the note which he communicated to the Council on the subject of his recent visit to Rome. Yet there can be scarcely any reason to doubt that Avenol submitted his note to Count Ciano2 before making it public, any more than there can be much reason to doubt that the Credentials Committee's second report (also enclosed) was not put to the Assembly until the Italians had passed its main lines. These purely personal views are not, however, generally held here, and it is impossible to confirm them. You may be in a much better position to form an independent opinion at home and possibly future events will clarify matters on which it is still too soon to pass judgment. I must add, however, that the press reports (French and Swiss) which have appeared since the Assembly's decision on the Ethiopians' credentials tend against the belief that Italian collaboration is desired here. Italy received only 32 votes in the elections for vice-presidents as against the 49 votes received by France who topped the poll. The press reports have, of course, seized on this result. Italy's low poll may be, and is, attributed to the abstention of the Scandinavian and anti-fascist States (although I have good reason for stating that France voted for Italy), but no doubt a number of States abstained because of the virtual certainty that Italy will not participate at this session of the Assembly.

Whatever the truth may be, it seems clear enough that delegates are very pleased with themselves and consider the League has just negotiated a number of difficult corners without encountering any of the fatal accidents which were fairly generally expected. No one seems to be troubled by any fears of an early war, of the immediate withdrawal of Italy from the League, of the imminent fall of Madrid, etc. etc. and the routine business of the commissions is now well under way.

In other words, the morale of the League is becoming higher according as its activities lose interest.3 The Assembly is proving to be as dull as anticipated and the Minister need have no regret that he is not here. Eden's speech was exactly as anticipated in so far as it dealt with the reform of the League; it contained, besides, a spirited defence of democracy which no Irish Delegation speech could well be expected to improve upon. The speech has, of course, aroused a great deal of interest, as much because of the nationality of its spokesman as for what it contained. The Spanish Delegate's speech which followed on Mr. Eden's oration was badly constructed and delivered and was not well received, except by the French Delegation which applauded it probably for the sake of form. I hope to send you a further report in a few days on the work of the First Commission.

[signed] Michael Rynne

1 Tafari Makonnen (1892-1975), Emperor Haile Selassié I of Ethiopia (1930-1974).

2 Count Galeazzo Ciano (1903-1944), son-in-law of Benito Mussolini, Italian Foreign Minister (1936-43), Italian Ambassador to the Vatican (1943), executed for treason against Mussolini (1944).

3 This sentence has been highlighted by a line drawn in pen in the left hand margin.

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