Volume 5 1936~1939

Doc No.

No. 93 UCDA P150/2807

Extract from a speech given by Eamon de Valera at the Eighteenth Ordinary Session of the League of Nations

Geneva, 2 October 1937

[matter omitted]

When on the initiative of the French and British Governments some twelve months ago, the non-intervention policy was agreed upon, and the Non-Intervention Committee was set up, my Government rejoiced. We believed in the policy of non-intervention, because that policy respected the right of the Spanish people to decide for themselves how they should be governed and who should be the governors1 the rulers - a right held particularly precious by our people because of their long struggle to get it acknowledged in their own regard. We believed in the policy of non-intervention also, because we were satisfied that, if left to themselves, the Spanish people would quickly secure a decision on the matters in dispute, and such conflict as there might be would be freed at least from the exasperation and bitterness, the callousness and cruelty which outside interference inevitably brings in its train, and which unfortunately it has brought in its train in the conflict now being waged. Moreover, we were convinced that foreign powers were unlikely to participate in the conflict through any love of the Spanish people, through any desire for the improvement of their social conditions or any regard for their civilisation or traditions. Their participation was much more likely to be prompted by selfish motives which might ultimately lead to the destruction of the great Spanish nation, or at least the loss of valuable portions of the national territory. Finally, we know that intervention on one side of the dispute would inevitably provoke counter-intervention on the other, leading to a fatal competition which could only result in a general European disaster.

With such convictions, Mr. President, it is obvious that our Government would greatly desire to be associated with those parts of the resolution which would confirm the policy of non-intervention. We deplore the interventions and counter-interventions which have bid fair to make Spain a cockpit for every European antagonism.

The people of Ireland are far from being indifferent to some of the issues at present being fought out in Spain, but the Irish Government is determined to adhere to the policy of non-intervention and steadfastly to advocate it as the best for Spain and the best for Europe. It would be a misrepresentation, therefore, of our Government's position to suggest, as I believe the second part of paragraph (7) does, that we are included in the States meditating a change of attitude. We have given no indication of such a change. If, as was suggested in the Sixth Committee, the intention of that sub-paragraph is merely to record a fact, then the record should be accurate. The fact to be recorded is, not that the members of the League which are parties to the Non-Intervention Agreement are meditating the termination of the policy of non-intervention, but that certain of those parties are meditating that course. I know that the withdrawal of some of the parties to the Non-Intervention Agreement can bring that agreement to an end so far as its effectiveness is concerned, but I want to emphasise that the Irish Government will not be one of those to take any share in that responsibility, and I want to make it clear beyond any possibility of misunderstanding that our Government are not being committed to any policy or action which might result from the termination of the Non-Intervention Agreement.

There is a danger, in the present condition of Europe, that the League of Nations, as it now is, may degenerate into a mere alliance of one group of States against another group. That would be the end of our hopes for a real League, and I consider that the smaller States of the League in particular2 should resist from the beginning every tendency in that direction.

To conclude: With the greater portion of the resolution we are heartily in agreement, particularly with those parts which affirm the rights of the Spanish nation, with that part which expresses the hope that the diplomatic action initiated by certain powers will be successful in securing the immediate and complete withdrawal of the non-Spanish combatants from Spain, and with that part which urges the Council of the League to be ready to seize an opportunity that may present itself for securing a peaceful solution of the conflict. Being unable, however, to accept the text of the resolution as a whole, or as I understand to secure the necessary changes in that text, the Irish Delegation have no alternative but to abstain from the vote3.

1 These words have been crossed out in the original of this document.

2 Handwritten insertion: 'in particular'. .

3 Words in italics are handwritten insertions by de Valera.