No. 320 NAI DT S3332

Memorandum on Irish membership of the League of Nations by Patrick Sarsfield O'Hegarty with covering note by J.J. Walsh

Dublin, 15 September 1922

Mr. P. S. O'Hegarty has sent me the following Memo.

To my mind his summary is pretty much in agreement with the general outlook of all those who accepted the Treaty as a stepping stone.

J. J. Walsh,

The League of Nations.

It seems to me that Ireland has nothing to lose and everything to gain by becoming a Member of the League of Nations as soon as ever she can, and that her claim should be staked there without delay.

There are two possibilities:-

(1) Membership at once. I do not think this can be managed. If it could, it would to my mind, be of immense advantage. There are three things in the Constitution which we ought to fight to the utmost limit we can:

  1. (1) The Oath,
  2. (2) The King's Veto,
  3. (3) The Privy Council's Veto.

The Treaty provides no machinery through which to fight them. If we could gain membership of the League of Nations at once we could fight these three points. We could say 'We have fought for this Treaty, accepted it, bled for it. We are going to carry it out. But we are entitled to have our interpretation of it considered, and we say that it should be interpreted in the spirit rather than in the letter; we say that our peculiar and special difficulties ought to have due weight. We say that in view of the fact that we have sealed Ireland's signature to the Treaty in blood we ought to be allowed our own interpretation of it and that conditions which are mere "eyewash" and which will gravely hamper us in giving effect to the Treaty should not be insisted upon in the letter'. We can say that anyway, but as things stand we have no Court of Appeal, and we are bound by England's Yes or No. If we were a member of the League of Nations we could appeal to the League and, even assuming that that appeal were unsuccessful we should at least demonstrate that we had done everything which was humanly possible.

(2) Application to be made now, and agreed to, Membership to begin when Treaty is ratified. Even this, I submit, would be a material asset. It would provide at once an Arbitration Tribunal to which any future dispute between Ireland and England, any disagreement with regard to the exact meaning of any Clause of the Treaty, could be referred. At present we have no Tribunal, unless we appeal to the Imperial Conference.

It would do more than this. It would give Ireland at once secure international recognition, not as a British Dominion on the same level as Canada but as the Historic Irish Nation; it would place us at once in the mind of Europe, on a level with the fundamental Nations of Europe, more especially as our outlook and our policy as Members of the League would be those of a Nation with historical associations and not those of a Dominion.

And, in view of the power which we can exert on American politics, and of the exaggerated idea of that power which is common, we would have an influence in the League rather greater than that of any other small Nation.

And it would finally strengthen our position at home tremendously. Remember that the 1918 Election was fought on this issue, and though the issue was a sentimental one it is now a practical matter. We could not get into the League then, we can now, and we ought.

(3) Foreign Policy. We ought to maintain ourselves in the international current as prominently as possible. Our foreign embassies ought to be maintained, no matter what the blind, and maintained with the best men we can get. While we consolidate the position we have gained we must be reaching out to the next step, and for that next step we must manipulate foreign opinion as much as we did during the War. Foreign policy and foreign representation are as important now as they were when we broke through England's paper-wall to the European conscience - or sentiment if you like.

(4) Ireland's position is unique. By virtue of our special history, our special position, we can not only lead the British Dominions in an anti-Imperial policy against the British Empire, but we can, through the League, organise the small Nations in a Small Nations League against the Empires. We can make of the League a reality by going into it and supplying honesty and passion and decency in its Councils. We can become a pivot for Europe and for America as well.

It is Utopian, but it is possible, and we ought to neglect nothing in which there is any promise.

(Initialled) P. S. O'H.[egarty]

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