No. 92 NAI DFA 19/13

Letter from Seán Lester to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(X. 23/1)

Geneva, 21 July 1932

The Aga Khan and the land annuities question

The Aga Khan stopped me in the corridors yesterday to talk about the annuities dispute. As you know he has an Irish estate which he frequently visits. He is almost as well-known in Paris and Rome as in London and has the reputation of being a man of considerable ability. He favours an Indian settlement which will not affect his great interests and safeguard the rights of minorities such as his own sect. I think he is certainly nobody's puppet but is, for obvious reasons, persona grata with the British Government.

He put up two suggestions which he asked me to convey personally to the Minister. One was the acceptance by the Saorstát of a Commonwealth chairman on the condition that he would be chosen by us! I told him how impossible that seemed to me but he said as a friend of both parties, anxious to see Ireland progressing, he had given thought to it and felt that his suggestion contained a sacrifice by both parties. He pressed me strongly to put it forward to the President and I do so for no other reason than that he is a man the President may at any time be meeting.

Later he came with the second proposal. That both parties should agree on a Commonwealth statesman such as Bennett or Hertzog (was the Aga himself also in his mind?) to whom would be entrusted the selection of a chairman from outside the Commonwealth. I do not see the British accepting that, even if the Government agreed, just as I thought his first suggestion was absurdly unacceptable to us. There is a naiveté about both his suggestions but you understand why I take the trouble to report them.

The question continues to attract much attention amongst the delegations, and Deputy Little1 has made a very good speech at the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

[signed] Seán Lester

1 Patrick J. Little (1884-1963) TD, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for External Affairs (1933-39).

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