No. 73 NAI DFA 126/37

Extract from a memorandum on the Eighteenth Ordinary Session of the League of Nations Assembly by Michael Rynne to Frederick H. Boland

Dublin, 16 August 1937

Assistant Secretary
          re Eighteenth Ordinary Session of the Assembly, 13th September, 1937

[matter omitted]

4: There remains one other question on the existing Agenda which may be considered as of particular interest, at any rate to Saorstát Éireann. This is item 13 which relates to the civil and political status of women. As will be recalled, Mr. Hearne was Rapporteur for this question when it was last down for discussion by an Assembly (First Commission of the 16th Assembly, 1935) and this country, both before and since that time, has played a prominent part in the movement to secure the equality of the sexes. At the present time our policy with regard to the position of women in the State may be considered to have been defined anew in the Constitution of 1937. Hence even if, in certain quarters, there was no suggestion that our policy had undergone a change, we might still be expected to inform the League of recent developments and to continue to display a special interest in the subject of women's rights.

Obviously, however, this question is one that requires not only delicate handling, but very expert knowledge of the many issues involved, as well as a thorough familiarity with the present law and policy of this country in regard to women. It might, therefore, be desirable to include the Legal Adviser to the Department in the Delegation to this Assembly, especially if the Minister feels that a formal statement of Saorstát Éireann's policy concerning women ought to be made at the next Assembly.

5: In the event of the Legal Adviser being one of the Delegation it might be practicable for us to take a definite line in a few of the more technical (legal) matters which are likely to come up in the First Committee. Chief of these is the question of the measures proposed during the last year for the international suppression of terrorism, concerning which a diplomatic conference is going to be held in November next.

6: Naturally, it is still rather early for a decision as to whether the Minister should or should not be advised to head the delegation to the Assembly. According to Mr. Cremins, there is always the possibility of an important international affair, such as the Sino-Japanese outbreak or the Spanish conflict, being brought up at the session. Also the fate of Palestine may be more nearly decided by September. But difficult questions, such as those of Spain, China and Palestine are essentially matters that the Great Powers prefer to settle out of the Assembly, which, since 1935, is tending to become more and more formal and ineffective. Apart from this general opinion, it would seem unwise to attempt any forecast of the final agenda of the Assembly at the moment.

So long as we have nothing to go on but an agenda of a purely technical, administrative character, of no political interest whatever, it is suggested that we should not recommend the Minister to attend the Assembly, or even to appoint another member of the Government to go there. We ought, moreover, indicate that there is no immediate prospect of securing the promise of the Chairmanship of any important Committee for the Head of the Irish Delegation.

This is a matter, however, that might be further explored in the coming weeks, if the Minister so directs.

7: In conclusion, it is well to add that there seems to be a chance of the Eighteenth Assembly recognising Italy's position in Ethiopia either by way of the exclusion of an Ethiopian Delegation by the Credentials Committee, or following on a general discussion to be initiated, perhaps, by the Council meeting which immediately precedes the Assembly.

8: Although it would be helpful at this stage to know the Minister's general attitude on the subject of heading the Delegation, it is, of course, clear that he may wish to await further information of a more hopeful kind. In the event of such information being received early next month, a further minute will be immediately submitted.

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