No. 99 NAI DFA Geneva Embassy Series S 3/14

Letter from Seán Murphy (for Joseph P. Walshe) to Seán Lester (Geneva) (31/40) (Urgent)

Dublin, 4 August 1932

With reference to your minute of the 25th July (S.3/2/16),1 I am directed by the Minister to state for your information that neither document No. C.980.M.545, 1931.III, referred to in your minute, nor the Minutes of the 66th Session of the Council at which the document was (subject to Mr. Colban's2 reservation) approved, contains the Report to which exception has been taken. Consequently the offending paragraphs, which appear to have been printed in document No. C.H.1060 only, did not come under the notice of this Department until attention was drawn to them by the Irish Guild of St. Luke, SS. Cosmas & Damian, as such Health Committee documents are not distributed to the Department by the League.3

It is not clear from your report whether the Health Section, when assisting you in drafting the report to the Council, placed you in possession of a copy of the Reporting Committee's Report (document C.H.1060). Please make the procedure in this respect quite clear.

It would appear that the Rapporteur's Report was based altogether on the Health Committee's Report as, so far as can be judged from the Minutes of the Council Meeting, the document which was passed by the Council (subject to the very useful observation made by the Norwegian representative) was document C.980.M.545.1931.III, i.e. the Report of the Health Committee on its 18th Session. With the exception of the reference at Page 15 to the fact that certain questions had been dealt with, the latter report bore no indication that offensive recommendations had been made, as it did not reproduce the Reporting Committee's Report. What it did state was that the Health Committee had examined the Reporting Committee's report and that it 'considers that this report embodies fundamental principles by which health administrations may usefully be guided in their efforts to prevent maternal and infant mortality, and adopts the report.'

In the Rapporteur's report to the Council in January last, the sole reference to the offending report was as follows:- 'Other resolutions of the Health Committee deal with xxxxxxx,4 and with the work of its reporting committee on maternal welfare and the hygiene of infants and children of pre-school age;' while the resolution put forward by the Rapporteur was in the following terms: 'The Council approves of the report on the work of the eighteenth session of the Health Committee, together with the observations contained in the report of the Rapporteur.'

It is obvious that the representatives sitting on the Council are not in a position to approve without full examination the details of the many technical reports which come before them. This was emphasised by the Norwegian representative at the meeting of the Council to which the Health Committee's report was submitted, and accordingly the Council's approval of the Rapporteur's resolution was, as stated in the minutes, subject to the observation made by the Norwegian representative, who indicated his views in the following terms:- 'The report on the work of the eighteenth session of the Health Committee, which the Council was approving, was very technical and dealt with many questions. Obviously each Government Member of the Council must conscientiously examine reports of this kind and come to a decision with regard to them. It would, perhaps, be advisable for the Rapporteur and the Secretariat to consider in future the question whether, in its resolutions, the Council should not confine itself to noting the work of technical committees, approving only those parts to which the Rapporteur thought fit to draw special attention.' Subject to this observation, the draft resolution was adopted (Vide P. 447 of Minutes of 66th Session of Council (Pt.II).)

It is clear that the paragraphs in question, in document C.H.1060, are offensive to Catholic doctrine, and are inconsistent with the national laws of this country. It is therefore essential that the representative of the Irish Free State on the Council should take the initiative towards securing their elimination from the publications of the League, and from recommendations, which might appear, however indirectly, to have the approval of the Council. The Minister will therefore be glad if you will consult with the Health Section and advise the Minister as to the procedure which is best calculated to secure the withdrawal of the paragraphs in question. The Minister considers that there should be no difficulty in securing this end, as the League must recognise that this is a case in which religious and even national susceptibilities are offended, and in which the detailed examination, which M. Colban anticipated would be necessary, has revealed that there is good ground for objection.

The Minister will also be glad if you will kindly treat this matter as one of urgency. In addition to the American Catholic Welfare Bureau, the Irish Guild of St. Luke, SS. Cosmas & Damian, has drawn attention to the matter, and has requested the Government to take action.

[signed] Seán Murphy

1 Not printed.

2 Erik Colban, Norwegian representative to the League of Nations.

3 Marginal note: '?'

4 As typed in original letter.

5 Also initialled by Francis T. Cremins.

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