No. 86 NAI DT S8182

Memorandum by Francis T. Cremins on the forthcoming sessions of the League of Nations Council and Assembly

Dublin, 14 July 1932


The Assembly is the general directing body of the League. It consists of delegations from each Member. It meets in September; reviews the work of the past year and lays down the lines on which the League is to proceed in the ensuing year.

The Council consists of five permanent and nine non-permanent Members. Like the Assembly, it deals with any question coming within the sphere of action of the League, or affecting the peace of the world. It has also special functions, such as, the supervision of the mandates system, the protection of minorities, &c., and it acts as the executive body to carry out the decisions of the Assembly.

The Secretariat is the Civil Service of the Council and the Assembly and of the various League Organisations.

The 68th Session of the Council will open at Geneva in the third week of September, 1932. In the ordinary course of rotation, the Presidency at this Session will fall to the Irish Free State.

The Presidency at the 68th Session will carry with it also the Presidency at the 69th Session, which will be held early in October, i.e., during the period of the Annual Assembly.

The Assembly will open on Monday the 26th September. On the opening day, the President of the Council for the time being acts as President of the Assembly, pending the election of a President for the Session.

Thus, to the Irish Free State, in September-October this year, falls the Presidency of two meetings of the Council, as well as the Presidency of the Assembly on the opening day. Each ordinary Session of the Council lasts for about a week, and the Assembly lasts about three weeks.

European States are practically always represented on the Council by their Foreign Ministers. The Presidency of the Council, besides involving the general direction of the work of that body, requires a good deal of initiative and tact in dealing with the delicate questions which frequently come before the Council. The President personally conducts negotiations between the parties in difficult political disputes, and he sometimes has to show firmness as well as tact, even at public sessions, in dealing with such cases. Disputes ordinarily relate to Minority Petitions, such as those submitted by Germany against the Polish Government, but the outstanding political dispute is that between China and Japan in regard to Manchuria. In this case the personality of the President has been of considerable importance. M. Briand, when President at the October-January sessions, took a very personal part in the negotiations between the parties, and in the communications which were addressed to the Governments concerned. This dispute will again come before the Council in September next, if the Report of the Special Commission, appointed by the Council to study the matter on the spot, has been received.

Another question of importance which will, it is understood, come before the Council in September is the filling of the post of Secretary-General of the League, in the place of Sir Eric Drummond, resigned. The new Secretary-General will be appointed by the Council, with the approval of a majority of the Assembly, and competition for the post between candidates of the big Powers will probably be of the keenest, as Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy are bound to use all their influence in connection with the filling of the vacancy.

Very much, however, of the work of the President is of a routine character, and the Secretary-General of the League and his experts ordinarily prepare the ground-work in each case, advise as to routine, and formulate draft statements. On the opening day of the Assembly, a very brief statement from the Acting-President is all that is required.

In the interval between the meetings in September and the next ordinary meeting of the Council in January, the representative of the Irish Free State will continue as 'Acting-President' of the Council, and will deal personally, with the advice and assistance of the Secretariat, with any important matters that may arise or develop in that period. The Delegation to last September's meetings of the Council and the Assembly consisted of the following:-


1. Minister for External Affairs

2. Dr. Binchy (late Minister at Berlin)

3. Mr. Lester (Geneva)

4. Mr. Murphy Dept. of External Affairs

Substitute Delegates

5. Mr. Hearne do.

6. Mr. Leydon then of Dept. of Finance.1

The Secretarial work was performed by Mr. Cremins and Mr. Boland, of the Department of External Affairs, and two typists from the Department accompanied the delegation (9 persons in all, from headquarters).

A somewhat similar delegation will be required this year. Three delegates and three substitute delegates are necessary in order to cover the six main Committees by which all questions coming before the Assembly are considered and reported upon. An early decision is desirable, as it is essential that the delegates should become familiar with the work of their Commissions. Moreover, hotel accommodation has to be secured early.

Many of the questions coming before the Council and the Assembly are of no immediate concern to the Irish Free State, but the economic discussions are of importance to every country. Moreover, it makes for prestige to play a worthy part in international affairs, and, manifestly, that prestige will be the greater when the President himself, as Minister for External Affairs, takes his seat as President of the Council of the League, and as Acting President of the Assembly.

1 Leydon was appointed Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce in May 1932.

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