The Minister for Finance has directed me to send for circulation to the members of the Executive Council the attached copies of a memorandum which sets out his views on the question of Ireland's membership of the League of Nations with particular reference to the manner in which, in his opinion, future delegations should be organised.
League of Nations
Following my attendance at the Assembly of the League of Nations this year, I am of opinion that it would be to the advantage of this country to take the work of the League more seriously than in the past. I feel satisfied that the general work of the League may be of enormous value to the world at large and indirectly to this country. Small nations like ours will gain more by the prevention of war than the great nations because whether or not the small nation is on the victorious side1 its rights are liable to be disregarded and its interests prejudiced.
Countries like Norway manage to play a very prominent and creditable part in the work of the League of Nations. They do so because they desire to see, so far as may be possible, a rule of law governing the relations of States with each other and they think it of benefit to themselves to expend energy and money towards promoting the efficiency and success of the League of Nations. If the Saorstát were to take the same sort of part in the work of the League of Nations as Norway takes, two purposes would be served. The League generally would be strengthened by the existence of another State which took an intelligent and independent line on every question which arose and the status of the Saorstát itself both in the League and in the British Commonwealth of Nations would be very substantially improved.
This year the Minister for External Affairs was very busy as Chairman of the Second Commission and was able to do useful work. So far as the other members of the delegation were concerned, my view is that their time was almost entirely wasted as well as the expense involved in sending them to Geneva. The reason for this was that adequate preparations for the Assembly were not made, that the delegates were selected as in previous years a very short time before the meeting of the Assembly and that there is not in the Department of External Affairs sufficient staff to make up the questions that are due or likely to come before the Assembly and to prepare adequate briefs for delegates.
My view is that in future delegates should as far as possible be selected twelve months in advance, that in the main the same delegates should attend from year to year, that extra staff be employed in the Department of External Affairs entirely on League of Nations work; that such staff should brief delegates not merely on the eve of their departure to Geneva but months in advance; that during two or three months before the Assembly, meetings of delegates should be held and policy discussed; that following such discussions the Executive Council should on all important matters issue instructions to the Saorstát delegates; and finally that the social activities of the delegation should be planned in advance so as to get the maximum of value in prestige and influence from any money expended.
The carrying out of a change such as I suggest may involve some additional expense but in my view there is no satisfactory half-way house between taking the League seriously (which involves endeavouring to acquit ourselves creditably in the Commissions and the Assembly) and abstaining from sending any delegation to Geneva. This year, but for the accident that the Minister for External Affairs was elected Chairman of the Second Commission, and the fact that Spain's withdrawal provided an opportunity for raising the question of Dominion seats on the Council, we should have attended a third Assembly in succession in the work of which we should certainly have found ourselves unprepared to take a sufficient part.