No. 196 NAI DFA 26/51

Letter from Francis T. Cremins (for Joseph P. Walshe)
to James J. McElligott (Dublin)

Dublin, 29 May 1933

With reference to your minute of the 25th March (S. 75/9/33)1 on the subject of economy in expenditure on International Conferences and on the League of Nations, I am directed by the Minister for External Affairs to state, for the information of the Minister for Finance2, that in view of the fact that the Irish Free State will in normal course cease to be a Member of the Council of the League in September next, expenditure in connection with delegations to Conferences of the League of Nations will, it is thought, tend to decrease from this year onward.

Expenditure on the League of Nations is made up chiefly of expenditure on:-

(1) Annual Contribution to the League.

(2) Delegations from Headquarters to the various Meetings in Geneva.

(3) The permanent office at Geneva.

With regard to (1), the fact that the subscription to the League is payable in gold francs, or in American dollars at part, involved a heavy increase in the annual contribution from this country, following the departure of sterling from the gold standard in September, 1931. Serious efforts are being made at the annual Assemblies of the League to reduce the League Budget, which has been growing from year to year, and so to reduce the burden which falls annually on the States Members. In the budget for 1932, a reduction amounting to about £130,000 on the Estimates as originally presented, was made, and a further slight reduction was effected in the Budget for the current year. The difficulty in bringing about appreciable reductions in League expenditure is due to the fact that the work which falls to the various organisations of the League tends to increase, notably by reason of prolonged Conferences on vital international problems, disputes between States, social and humanitarian activities, &c.&c., while it has not so far been found practicable to reduce salaries owing to the fact that the vast majority of League officials are protected from 'cuts' by contracts for definite periods. With regard to the latter point the League has decided that a clause should in future be embodied in contracts to the effect that salaries will be variable by decision of the Assembly. Had this clause been in operation in existing contracts, it is certain that an appreciable cut in salaries would have been carried out last year.

As the Minister for Finance is aware, the Irish Free State is in a category which pays an annual contribution of 10 units, out of a total of roughly 1000 units. Some time ago, the question of dropping to a lower category was tentatively taken up by this Department, but it was found that the view was held in the Secretariat of the League that the Irish Free State should, on the basis on which the categories have been allocated to the various States, be really in a higher category than it is at present. The question was, therefore, dropped for the moment, but the possibility of securing a reduction by this means will not be lost sight of when the method of fixing contributions comes to be reconsidered in 1934.

Delegations to Geneva

It is safe to say that the number of delegates and officials sent to Geneva has been, on all occasions, if anything below the minimum. The Irish Free State has been a Member of the Council of the League since 1930, and as such has been allotted a large share of the work performed by that body. Nevertheless, on grounds chiefly of economy, no delegate or official was sent to the Council meetings of January or May, 1932. In September and November, 1932, when President de Valera had to preside over three prolonged sessions of the Council, and at the opening meeting of the Assembly, a strong staff was necessary, as a quite excessive amount of work fell to be performed by the Irish Delegation on those occasions.

On grounds of economy also, only one official from Headquarters attended the Council Session of January last, notwithstanding the fact that at the time of this Session the Permanent Delegate and his Secretary were engaged not only on Council Work, but also on many important small Committees, and at the Disarmament Conference. One official only has also been sent to the present Session of the Council, a quite inadequate provision seeing that the Disarmament Conference is still sitting, and that the Permanent staff has many other Committees to attend. In this connection, it may be mentioned that at the special request of the Secretary General, the Irish Free State recently succeeded Japan as Rapporteur to the Council on Minority questions. This - one of the heaviest and most responsible tasks appertaining to the Council - involved arduous work in the examination of petitions and prolonged and very delicate negotiations between the Rapporteur and the States concerned.

In September next, the Irish Free State's Membership of the Council is due to expire, and consequently, after September, it is probable that delegations from Headquarters will be required in connection with the Annual Assembly only, and with Conferences in which this country may be particularly interested. But for the World Economic Conference, which is a League Conference to be held in London next month, the expenditure on delegations this year would not be so heavy as last year when the share of League work and responsibility which fell to the Irish Free State was exceptionally heavy.

Permanent Office at Geneva

It would not be practicable to close this office without losing much of the international prestige which has undoubtedly accrued to this country from the contacts which the Permanent Delegate has been able to make during the past few years and from the part which this country has been able to play in international affairs as a result of the presence in Geneva of a Permanent Delegation. Important international Conferences and negotiations tend more and more to be centred at Geneva. Such Conferences have, in fact, been practically continuous during the past 21 months. In the absence of the Permanent Delegation it would have been necessary to have had delegates from Headquarters in Geneva practically continuously during that period, and no considerable saving would, therefore, have been effected. But apart from this aspect of the matter, it is the policy of the Government that this country should take a worthy and increasing part in international affairs, and it is the considered opinion of the Minister that the maintenance of the Permanent Office in Geneva is essential to this end. In the absence of local representation, it would be impossible to keep in close touch with the varied activities of the League of Nations. This is a fact which is well recognised by the many small States which maintain representatives permanently in Geneva. Indeed, if the Permanent Office were withdrawn, it would be almost as well to withdraw from the League altogether, but this is a possibility which could not be contemplated, even if the present critical conditions in international political and economic affairs were non-existent.

It is understood that the question of effecting economies in expenditure in connection with the International Labour Office is being dealt with by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

[handwritten] (Sgd.) F.T. Cremins

1 Not printed.

2 Seán MacEntee.

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