176 No. UCDA P4/902

Extract from a handwritten letter from Edward Phelan to Hugh Kennedy (Dublin)

PARIS, 19 December 1923

My Dear Attorney General

I was delighted to get your letter of 18th Dec1 (850/23) in London this morning. I realise how busy you must have been. My anxiety was that any of my letters should have gone astray, & in the particular case of Art 393 I was anxious to be sure you had been made aware of the critical situation.

After writing you I reflected on the matter from the point of view of the I.L.O. & suggested to Thomas2 that we could not take the responsibility of transmitting the reply which I quoted in my last letter to the League. He agreed & I wrote an official minute in that sense to Butler who was in London. Butler accordingly wrote to the Ministry of Labour who were thus led to throw the responsibility of instructing the League to publish back on the Foreign Office. I hoped that this would have given you longer time. In fact as you have now been seized officially it has been even more effective.

I am glad to hear that you have now the matter in hand & I have no doubt you will find a way out of the tangle which will fully safeguard our position.

There was apparently a deliberate attempt to commit us to a fatal precedent. Only the accident that the I.L.O. has to tread carefully when a question affecting two Members of the Organisation arises allowed you to be officially seized & thus given the chance to maintain our rights.

I personally think therefore that we should protest very strongly against this attempt to 'jump our claim' & should ask for sanctions against the British Office responsible. I think it would be a mistake on our part to let the matter pass or accept any casual excuse that it was a clerical error.

It is not clear from your letter as to what you have been informed of officially. Have you been informed that the ratification was actually communicated over your heads without consultation, or have you been asked whether you agree to a ratification being made as if the document now in Geneva had never been sent?

We have all the rights of the case on our side & I would like to see us take a very definite attitude that we are not amused & that we will decide whether or not to ratify in our own good time.

As for the Imperial Conference resolutions I shall only be satisfied when I have your own opinion. I am as I told [you] very unhappy about them. I cannot trace any contribution of ours in them. On purely internal evidence I would imagine that we just took them because we were told that they summarised existing procedure & we didn't know any better. I think we should weigh them & interpret them very carefully before we decide to follow them. The preference resolutions of the I. Conference have now been torn to shreds by the British election & we may treat the ratification resolution the same way. I should be very happy if we did, as it seems to me in contradiction both with the Treaty & Constitution.

[Matter omitted]

With best wishes,
Yours very sincerely,
[signed] E.J. PHELAN

[Matter omitted]

1Probably No. 175 above.

2Albert Thomas, Director General of the ILO.

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