That the Dáil approves of the International Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armament signed at London on the 22nd day of April, 1930, a copy of which was laid on the Table of the Dáil on the 3rd December, 1930, and recommends the Executive Council to take the necessary steps to ratify the said Treaty.
I do not intend to examine at all the details of this Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armaments. It has been before the House since 3rd December and Deputies had sufficient time to examine the details for themselves. As a matter of fact, the details with regard to ships, tonnage, etc., do not concern us very much. What does concern us is the attempt, the successful attempt, that has been made at least to get some measure of agreement with regard to the limitation of armaments even though it is confined to one sphere of warfare. I think it will be recognised that the fact that success has been achieved is due to the fact that a better approach was made to the question of disarmament in naval matters after certain political agreements had been reached. Attempts had been made previously to bring about disarmament on land as well as on sea but those with regard to naval agreements had not been very successful. There had been one rather successful one, but the effect had been somewhat spoiled by the abortive attempt made in 1927. Even though success had been achieved at the earlier Washington Conference, the points on which there was disagreement rather excited the nations of the world to compete again in building the class of vessels in which they were still allowed to compete.
At the London Conference this time there was a much better atmosphere, due almost entirely to the fact that better political agreements had been reached amongst the nations, arising out of the fact that the Kellogg Pact in particular had been signed, and that the Optional Clause had been adhered to by so many of the nations associated in the League of Nations. In addition, the majority of the nations of the world had bound themselves through their association at Geneva, not merely to defend one another against an aggressor in time of war, but to cut off all connection both by way of finance and commerce with an aggressor State. With the better hope arising from all these considerations that a new attitude would be taken up on the question of navies if people believed sincerely in the Kellogg Pact and in these other international agreements, their navies were no longer to be looked upon as instruments of aggression, or, at least, as instruments for an aggressive policy. War had been denounced, and all that was thereafter required was that a navy and every type of armament should be regarded merely as a method of defence against an aggressor State, if any State had become aggressive and broke the peace of the world.
In these circumstances this Conference met and substantial agreement on very important details was reached. As far as certain portions of this Treaty are concerned, two Powers associated with it in other parts failed to make agreement, but it was understood at the time that the London Conference broke up that these conversations had not been abandoned but deferred. It was hoped that, subsequently, agreement would be reached as between these two States, and that the Treaty would become a full Treaty as between all the contracting parties.
We were invited to take part in the Conference. We were very pleased to have the invitation extended to us, and equally pleased to have the chance of attending, though, as I have said, we are not immediately interested in the question of scrapping ships or of limitation by way of tonnage or otherwise. We were pleased that the invitation had been extended to us, particularly when we learned that a great country, the United States, was specially concerned that this Conference should meet, that the nations invited should assemble, and that we as one nation should be there. We felt that to abandon the Conference at that point, and to say that we were not interested would have been flaunting indifference in the face of the United States on a matter that vitally concerned them.
As a small nation we must, of course, have a very deep interest in anything that will lead to the preservation of peace as opposed to the emergence of war conditions. For these reasons we were pleased to accept and to attend, holding that our constitutional position, the one other point that had to be attended to, was safeguarded throughout the Treaty. As this is a Treaty which is in the general interest of international peace, even although it may not go the whole way people expect from it, we recommend it to the Dáil.