No. 193 UCDA P4/911

Marquis MacSwiney of Mashonaglass to Desmond FitzGerald (Dublin)


Dublin, 29 January 1924

A Chara,

I see in this morning's papers that the Secretary-General of the League of Nations, at the request of the Council, has sent a letter to the governments of Nations, Members of the League, suggesting that certain measures be taken with a view to enforcing the League's decisions in connection with the illegal traffic in harmful drugs.

Referring to a private conversation on the subject which I had the honour of having with you, and the Honourable Ministers for Education and Finance, 1 a short time ago, I beg to come and ask you, in my capacity of Delegate of the Free State of Ireland at the Fourth Assembly of the League of Nations, to take into consideration the following points which have come to my mind as a result of my personal active participation in the work of the Fifth Committee of the League which, amongst other various matters, dealt precisely with the question of the Traffic in Opium and other Dangerous Drugs.

I consider it is not only expedient, but urgent that the Government of the Free State of Ireland, following the example of governments of various other foreign States which have come into existence in the course of the past few years, should ratify at an early date, and have its signature put to the Convention of the Hague of January 23, 1912, which was intended to suppress the illicit traffic in habit forming narcotic drugs.

Although, through the mercy of God, the People of Ireland have not so far been affected to any considerable extent by an evil which, in many other countries of Europe, as well as of America, and the East, has steadily been growing for some time past, reaching in certain cases the proportion of a national calamity - yet I am of opinion that the Government of the Free State of Ireland cannot afford to look on with apparent indifference to what is going on elsewhere, without exposing itself to the risk of being severely criticised and blamed by Governments of Nations, where the use of dangerous drugs is prevalent, and even, on account of the peculiar geographical position of this Island, of being actually accused of secretly favouring a traffic which is as highly remunerative as it is immoral. The manner in which such a charge was brought up in full Committee last September by the Delegate of Great Britain against the Government of the Helvetic Confederation, makes me feel that the Government of the Free State would be well advised to take without delay such steps as may be necessary with a view to making an attack such as this absolutely impossible.

Another consideration which, to my mind, would make it eminently desirable for the Government of the Free State of Ireland, to ratify and sign as soon as possible the Hague Convention, consists in the fact that the Government and People of the United States of America take the keenest interest in the campaign for the repression of the traffic in noxious drugs. Of this interest we had, last year, a very striking instance when, notwithstanding the attitude of aloofness assumed, and constantly observed from the very start by that Government towards the League of Nations, the late President Harding commissioned the Hon. Stephen G. Porter, of Pennsylvania, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives to go to Geneva, at the head of a special Delegation including Bishop Brent, and other distinguished personalities, with the object of attending the sittings of the Fifth Committee, in which the question of opium and harmful drugs was to be discussed, and of informing that Committee, and consequently the Assembly of the League, of his Government's views on the matter. On the advice of the Hon. Minister for Education, first Irish Delegate at the Fourth Assembly, I put myself immediately in touch with the Hon. S.G. Porter, and the Members of his Delegation, and by the support I was able to give to their policy, in the course of the discussions, and votings which subsequently took place, was fortunate enough to secure their confidence and approval. I think there can be no doubt as to the satisfaction which an early ratification of the Hague Convention on the part of the Government of the Free State of Ireland would produce both on the Government of the United States and on the Irish community out there.

Furthermore, I would still like to call your attention to a point which, I believe, deserves to be borne in mind by the Government of the Free State of Ireland, particularly as it does not only apply to the Hague Convention, but to many other international treaties of the kind which, from time to time, have been negotiated, ratified, and signed by the Government of the then United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. So long as the Government of the Free State of Ireland does not denounce, in the usual official form any of these Treaties, the Irish Nation remains bound by them just as if the status of the country, from an international point of view, continued to be the same as it was prior to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 6, 1921, and to the admission of the Free State of Ireland in the League of Nations on September 10, 1923. However, it is up to the Government of the Free State, when an occasion arises, either to denounce such Treaties or Conventions, or to ratify them in its new capacity of a Government of a Sovereign State. Now, it seems to me, that in many cases, but most particularly in that of the Convention of the Hague, it would be of the utmost importance, especially from a moral point of view, that the Government of the Free State of Ireland should ratify and sign it as the Governments of so many other sovereign States which have come into being as a result of the European War, have lately been doing, thus showing at a time that it is quite awake to the powers it derives from the new Status of the Nation, and its position as a State Member of the League, and that it is anxious to use these powers for the purpose of contributing its share to the material and moral progress of the World at large.

Is mise, le meas mór
[copy letter unsigned]
Mac Suibhne Magh Seana-Ghlass

1Eoin MacNeill, Ernest Blythe.

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