No. 45 NAI DFA 417/33 Part 1

Memorandum by Michael Rynne on Ireland's membership of the United Nations

Dublin, 5 December 1945

  1. On the 25th October, Deputy Dillon asked the Taoiseach whether the Government proposed to apply on behalf of Ireland for membership of the United Nations and, if so, when. The Taoiseach replied to the effect that the new Organisation had not yet had its first formal meeting and that, before any application for membership would be put forward by the Government, the people and the Dáil would have to have ample opportunity of considering and appraising the significance of that step.

    In the course of replying to supplementary questions, the Taoiseach told Deputy Dillon that a discussion of the matter might be initiated by himself 'in a month or so'. Since then, the text of the Charter has been circulated to Deputies, but no discussion has taken place.

    Deputy Dillon wants to know if the Taoiseach is now in a position to submit proposals to Dáil Éireann concerning the matter.

  2. It is submitted that the position has not essentially altered since the 25th October last. One might have hoped at that time that the Preparatory Commission due to meet in London would have got through its work and by now have everything ready for an early meeting of the General Assembly. That has not happened. The Preparatory Commission is still in conference, and, although it is apparently hoped to be able to have the first meeting of the Assembly next month, no exact date has been fixed. At the moment, the two dates, 2nd and 7th January, are mentioned as possible opening dates of the Assembly.
  3. The fact that the Assembly may manage to meet in a few weeks does not mean that the new Organisation will then commence to function. Before it can do so, the Security Council must be constituted. That means that six non-permanent members must be elected - three for a term of two years and three for a term of one year - by the General Assembly. With the five Powers, USA, USSR, Great Britain, France and China, the six non-permanent members will make up a Council of eleven as prescribed by Article 23 of the Charter. From the point of view of applications for membership of the Organisation, the constitution of (not to speak of the composition of) the Security Council is a matter of real relevance. Applicants for membership must all go before the Security Council, whose 'recommendation' is essential before any application can be submitted to the General Assembly for a two-thirds majority decision to admit the applicant to the Organisation. The Security Council's recommendation will only be given where seven of its members, inclusive of the Big Five, concur.
  4. As far as we know, no State has decided to apply for admission to the United Nations at its first meeting. It is true that, by a vote of eleven to three, the Preparatory Commission has agreed to permit applications to be made at the first meeting, but the fact that the three dissentients were the USSR and its satellites, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, may serve to discourage the early applications of States which are already uneasy about Russia's attitude to them.
  5. None of the ex-neutrals who are possible candidates for membership of the United Nations can claim to be in the good graces of the USSR. Switzerland, for example, has no reason to hope that Russia will view favourably her desire to join the Organisation as a guaranteed neutral. Most ex-neutrals are likely to maintain their present 'wait and see' attitude for quite a while yet
  6. It is, of course, worth considering whether it would be to this country's advantage to put itself into the vanguard in this matter of seeking admission to the United Nations. If the state of the world had nearly returned to normal, this question would be easier to decide. Once the Government had overcome a natural reluctance to commit the country to automatic participation in future measures against 'aggressor States', there would be no other particular reason why admission should not be sought at once.

    The position, however, is that, since the end of the major wars in Europe and the Far East, a large number of minor disturbances have broken out in many parts of the world, some of which may lead directly or indirectly to a Third World War. Even among the members of the United Nations itself, there seem to be differences of opinion which, unless adjusted, may lead to that Organisation becoming still-born or, worse still - following the example of the old League of Nations - a coalition against dissident Powers.

    In short, it might be unfair to the country and the Dáil if the Government were now to press forward an application for membership of the United Nations without taking all the dangers of the present international situation into account. The Government have such a responsibility in this matter that over-caution on their part is preferable to the risk, however slight it may prove to be, of blindly leading this country into a Great Power conflict more terrible than that from which we were recently so happily spared.

  7. Deputy Dillon will recognise that membership of the United Nations involves great sacrifices for a small State like Ireland. It would involve (Article 43) the making available to the Security Council of 'armed forces, assistance and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security'.

    The Deputy may say that those sacrifices are worth while from the standpoint of a peace-loving nation like this, and that we ought to hasten to promise our contribution. He may think that they are only sacrifices of 'sovereignty', which is a theoretical concept, one which has inspired many wars. But, in reply to that, the Government are bound to point out that, unless the sacrifices of sovereignty, which their membership of the United Nations would entail, are reasonably likely to result in world peace, then they should not be made. Membership of an Organisation which is not virtually sure to prevent major wars would mean, not a mere sacrifice of State sovereignty but a gratuitous sacrifice of national security. That is why the Government feel they could not justifiably submit proposals to Dáil Éireann regarding the United Nations at the present uncertain juncture.

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