Volume 3 1926~1932

Doc No.

No. 115 NAI DFA LN 65

Despatch from Joseph P. Walshe (for Patrick McGilligan) to L.S. Amery (London)
(D.5507) (Confidential) (Copy)

Dublin, 29 August 1927


I have the honour to refer to a document distributed by the League Secretariat dated 23rd August concerning the Third General Conference on Communications and Transit signed Courtnay Forbes and to submit the following comments of His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State thereon.

2. The recommendations of the Imperial Conference on the form of treaty affect all the Commonwealth States equally and this is more especially true of their relations with the League in which there is no question of common representation. Any suggested modification should therefore have been the object of a joint or several note and in no circumstances of the type of note sent by Mr. Courtnay Forbes who as far as one can read from the document itself acts for all the Commonwealth States without the express or implied authority of any one of them except Great Britain.

3. The insertion of the word 'Britannic' before the word 'Majesty' has no authority when used to describe His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions. The form of the Latvian Agreement was simply a modification of an earlier text made in the name of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain which was described as His Britannic Majesty's Government, the descriptions being interchangeable. When the other Governments of the Commonwealth expressed a desire to be parties to the agreement the word 'Britannic' was retained, and the words 'in Great Britain', 'in Canada', etc. added. His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State regarded the description as anomalous and contrary to the recommendations of the Imperial Conference and the usage established since then, but they refrained from comment at the time, regarding the agreement as exceptional owing to the special circumstances already mentioned, but they did not desire that the description should be regarded as establishing a precedent.

4. The use of the word 'Britannic' implies a definite subordination of His Majesty's other Governments to His Majesty's Government in Great Britain, an implication wholly opposed to the constitutional position and it is moreover clear from the resolutions of the Imperial Conferences of 1923 and 1926 that in agreements between Governments there is no need to mention the Heads of States.

5. His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State have accordingly instructed Mr. MacWhite not to accept the new description in so far as the Irish Free State is concerned and to protest against the action of Mr. Courtnay Forbes in speaking for the Irish Free State without authority. They would be glad if Sir Sydney Chapman were informed accordingly.

6. His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State believe that difficulties of this kind could be avoided if an officer from the Dominions Office who understands the position were present at all conferences.

I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient,
humble Servant,
For the Minister for External Affairs
(Signed) J.P. Walshe