No. 114 NAI DFA Berne Embassy Box 5

Letter from Michael MacWhite to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(M.L. 04/032) (Copy)

Geneva, 25 August 1927

A Chara,

I beg to enclose you herewith a document that has just been circulated to the Conference on Communications and Transit by the British Delegation.

On reading through this document one could only come to the conclusion that it contained a joint proposal in the name of Great Britain and the other States of the Commonwealth. In addition, the form of signature proposed therein appeared to me to be objectionable from our point of view.

At the first opportunity that offered, I called the attention of the Head of the British Delegation (Sir Sydney Chapman)1 to those two points and as regards the first, he agreed that the document could be interpreted as stated above and decided that the British representative on the Passport Conference would make a statement this afternoon to the effect that the document in question was submitted by His Majesty's Government in Great Britain and was not a joint declaration. I shall also give the views of the Saorstát Government on the subject referred to in the document so that it shall be quite clear to all concerned that the British delegation is not speaking for us on the matter.

As regards the second point, it seemed to me that the term 'for His Britannic Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State' was not the correct description that should be employed in a document of this nature. On looking through the summary of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference, I find references to: 'His Majesty's Government in the Commonwealth of Australia' etc. but no mention of the word 'Britannic'. I fear the inclusion of this adjective implies that the Irish Free State and the other States of the Commonwealth are in some way subordinate to His Britannic Majesty's Government which, properly speaking, is the Government of Great Britain. That is the impression created in my mind and, I may add, in the minds of the international jurists with whom I have discussed the matter.

However, I mentioned to Sir Sydney Chapman the fact that the insertion of the adjective 'Britannic' in the form of signature might cause us unnecessary trouble in view of the political situation at home. He was very sympathetic, but the question was one for the Foreign Office. The latter referred to the precedent which was created in signing the Treaty between the British Empire and Latvia, which was signed on behalf of the Saorstát a month or two ago, in which the same form is employed. I had no knowledge of the signature of this Treaty on our behalf, nor was I aware that the form of signature then employed and proposed to be again employed here was an agreed form between the British and the Saorstát Governments. My want of information on such an important matter might have placed me in a very embarrassing situation which could have been avoided if I had discussed the different questions that are likely to arise from the agenda of this Conference viva voce with you and the heads of the other Departments interested, as matters always crop up when such discussions take place that could not be covered by correspondence.

It is not likely now that the Conference will adopt a Convention on the Passport question which necessitates signature, but rather a recommendation. There may, however, be a final act to sign and consequently I should like to know if the form of signature in the British document is the correct one.

Mise, le meas,
[copy letter unsigned]

1 Sir Sydney Chapman (1871-1951), Permanent Secretary to the British Board of Trade (1919-27), Chief Economic Adviser to the Government (1927-32), on Import Duties Advisory Committee (1932-39).

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