No. 96 UCDA P80/594

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe on the Department of External Affairs and the Imperial Conference
(466/1927) (Copy)

Dublin, 1 June 1927


Every organised state in the World has a Department of External Affairs.



1) To cultivate and instruct the public opinion of the World so that the independence of the State may be safeguarded in times of international crisis.

2) To maintain contact with the progress of other states in all developments which make for the well being of the state.

3) To establish and maintain trade relations with other states.



1) It has established a Diplomatic and Trade Mission in Great Britain. The Officers of that Mission are gradually organising and developing our commercial and general relations with our nearest and best customer in close conjunction with the home departments.

2) It has established diplomatic and trade missions in the United States with the result that the progress and prosperity of the Saorstát is being followed with eager sympathy and practical support by Americans of all races and especially by Irish Americans.

3) It has established and is maintaining contact with continental Europe through missions at Paris, Brussels and Geneva.

4) It has consolidated the prestige and international status of the Saorstát through Membership of the League of Nations.

5) It participates in international conferences whether organised by the League of Nations or by individual nations.

6) It keeps in close touch with all the States of the Commonwealth, and it effectively helped at the Imperial Conference to put the relations of those states with each other and with non-Commonwealth States on a more satisfactory basis. That relationship is one of complete equality, and the Government of the most powerful state in the World has formally recognised our status of absolute equality by appointing a Minister Plenipotentiary to Dublin.



It costs less than the corresponding department of any other state in the world.

Norway with a population and revenue somewhat smaller spends £200,000 a year on her external affairs. Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Cuba - approximating to the Saorstát in revenue and population - spend still larger sums. The Saorstát spends on her foreign services of every kind about £53,000 and her receipts from the same source amount to about £25,000 (passports and visas). Her actual expenditure on foreign affairs is thus about £28,000. The annual contribution of the Saorstát to the League is £9,521 (included in the total of £53,000).

The party which advocates the suppression of the External Affairs Department can only be supported by those who believe in a policy of isolation and decay. Anation can no more exist without external relations than the individual can live independently of his fellow men.



The Imperial Conference of October-November 1926 has one great achievement to its credit. It declared in the most solemn fashion that the Nations of the British Commonwealth were equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any of their domestic or external affairs and that they were freely associated, that they have one bond, namely a common King who acts only when advised to do so by the Ministers of the State concerned. The importance of this declaration cannot be exaggerated. It does in effect establish an alliance of nations based entirely on mutual interest and free co-operation. The other achievements of the Imperial Conference follow from this:

1) Heretofore it was the custom for the British Representative at International Conferences and in international agreements to hold a full power covering all the territories of the Commonwealth. That full power was issued on the advice of the British Government. Now the States of the Commonwealth will be represented completely and exclusively by their own plenipotentiaries appointed on the advice of their own governments. For the first time in history, the States of the Commonwealth will be represented on this basis of complete independence at a Naval Disarmament Conference to be held in the middle of June at Geneva. No international obligations whatever can in future be imposed on the Saorstát, except on the advice of the Saorstát Ministers.

?2) The Governor General ceases to represent the British Government. Since the 1st May1 in the Saorstát no communications whatever pass between the Governor General and the British Government. That function has passed to the Department of External Affairs. The Governor General now represents the King and in that capacity he is exclusively dependent on the advice of the Saorstát Government.

3) The foreign relations of each state of the Commonwealth are entirely free and governed only by the will of the individual government and the desirability of close co-operation within the Commonwealth group.

4) The Government of the United States, acting on the findings of the Imperial Conference, has given formal recognition to the independent status of Canada and the Saorstát by appointing Ministers to Dublin and Ottawa.

5) There are still some anomalies in the relations of the Commonwealth States to each other - such as the right of appeal to the British Privy Council, and the theoretic right of the British Parliament to legislate in extra-territorial matters for the whole group. But the rectification of these anomalies has been provided for either by further reference to the Imperial Conference or by reference to a special committee appointed by all the states of the group which is to sit early next year.2

6) The work of promoting trade within the Commonwealth is being actively pursued by committees such as the Imperial Economic and the Marketing Committees. Irish products are being actively pushed on the British Market together with those of the Overseas States of the Commonwealth.



The 1926 Imperial Conference began a new era in the history of the Saorstát and its sister states, and the favourable results are due in no small measure to the work of the Irish Delegation. An Irish Republic could not achieve a position of freedom better calculated to promote in peace our prosperity and our national institutions.

1 See No. 84.

2 The Conference on the Operation of Dominion Legislation did not meet until November 1929.

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