Volume 5 1936~1939

Doc No.

No. 200 NAI DFA 243/67

Statement by Francis T. Cremins to the fourth (public) meeting of the Evian-les-Bains Refugee Conference

Evian-Les-Bains, France, 11 July 1938

The Irish Government are deeply grateful to the Governments of the United States and France for the opportunity which this meeting affords of expressing their sincere sympathy with the objects for which the Committee has been convened, and their hope that substantial results will follow from

consideration of the problems before the delegates. They have been happy to accept the invitation extended to them in order to demonstrate their sympathy, even though, for reasons which I shall briefly set out, they are not, to their great regret, in a position to make any substantial contribution to the solution.

Ireland is a small country with jurisdiction over a population of something less than three million people. Notwithstanding the steady progress which has been made in recent years in regard to the creation of new industries, by far the greater part of our people still derive, and will continue to derive, their living from the land. I need not attempt to explain the land problems which have arisen in Ireland; it is sufficient to say that there is not enough land available to satisfy the needs of our own people.

Although every effort is being made by the Government to expedite industrialisation in a country which had been greatly under-industrialised, the new industries are not yet capable of absorbing the regular increase in our population, so that each year numbers of young people are forced by circumstances to emigrate. While such emigration remains imposed upon our national economy, it is obvious that we can make no real contribution to the resettlement of refugees.

So much for the agricultural and the industrial sides. On the professional side, it will suffice to say that, in our medical schools, there qualify every year more doctors than are required to care for the health of our people. And similar conditions of over-crowding apply to the other professions. It is for these various reasons that we are not in a position to contribute in any appreciable degree to the solution of this urgent problem, and we are naturally anxious not to promise more than we could hope to perform.

It has, I think, emerged from the speeches already made that there is little likelihood that the fully settled countries will be able to provide homes for more than a fraction of the unhappy persons with whom we are concerned.

The only alternative solution which has been suggested is the opening-up of new or underdeveloped territory. The Irish Government have no such territory under their control, and they are accordingly reluctant to urge the taking by other Governments of measures in which they themselves could not participate. The Irish delegation, however, ventures to express the earnest hope that, notwithstanding the difficulties, the mass of human suffering involved in the refugee problem may, by some such means, be substantially alleviated.