Vote 67—External Affairs. - Vote 68—League of Nations.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £12,960 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1936, chun Deontais-i-gCabhair do Chostaisí Chumann na Náisiún agus chun Costaisí eile mar gheall air sin.

That a sum not exceeding £12,960 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936, for a Grant-in-Aid of the Expenses of the League of Nations and for other Expenses in connection therewith.

Do we gather that the President is not going to make a statement relative to the activities of the representatives of the Irish Free State at the League of Nations? As I said on the Vote for the Department of External Affairs, it is not merely out of curiosity that we sought and still seek for information as to the activities of the Department in the field of foreign affairs. The President, during his concluding observations on the last Vote, made certain remarks about the League of Nations and our policy at the League, and he interpolated the observation that he had intended to make these remarks on the Estimate for the League of Nations. I regret that he interpolated the remarks he did about the League of Nations on the Vote for the Department of External Affairs, because apparently we are not going to have any information whatever on this substantial Vote for the League of Nations about what we have been doing during the past 12 months and what we intend to do in the forthcoming 12 months in reference to the activities of the League of Nations and the various subsidiary activities that take place under the auspices of that body.

It is a matter of some moment to this country to know what we are doing at the League of Nations, whether we propose to do anything at the forthcoming meeting of the Assembly and whether, after the next Assembly, there will be, in the opinion of the President, any League of Nations at all. We are interested, not out of mere curiosity, but because a number of us have an interest in matters relating to external affairs and matters dealing with the League of Nations. It was the practice during the period of office of the last administration to issue each year a pamphlet giving an account of what had been done in the League of Nations and in the International Labour Office. Apparently that practice has been discontinued. At all events, I have not recently got any of those accounts that used to be circulated in relation to our activities in the International Labour Office and at the Assembly of the League of Nations and the meetings of the Council.

The President, I think, admitted we had a status and a standing of some import at Geneva. The President, at the same time, seems to think we have very little influence at Geneva, very little hope or possibility of influencing the general trend of foreign affairs through our membership of the League of Nations. Because of our position as a member of the family of nations represented at Geneva, we have a two-fold duty and right. As an independent member of the League we have our right to influence policy and the affairs of the nations assembled there in council. In addition to that, we have a rôle which we can fulfil, and which was fulfilled by the last Administration, with the object of increasing the prestige and the influence of this country as an independent member of the League of Nations.

As I pointed out during the discussion on the last Estimate, we had a very considerable influence in the League of Nations by reason of the fact that we were regarded as a State entirely outside the current of European international policies and for that reason, and because of the fact that we were an independent-minded member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, that gave us a considerable prestige and an opportunity for exercising influence on current international policy.

The League of Nations gave to the small nations of the world an opportunity of influencing international politics and policy that they never had before and the result was that in the history of the last 12 or 15 years at Geneva the nations that exercised the greatest influence on world affairs, and current European policy in particular, were the small nations, particularly the Scandinavian group, the Northern European nations. They were sought after by the bigger nations because of their influence and independence. We had been in that position. I think we still should be, if we are not in that position at the present moment. I do not say we are not in that position at the moment; all I do say is that the President has not told us whether we are or not.

It was comforting to hear the President say our influence would be thrown, for what it was worth, against the influences that appear to be at work on the Continent on the side of a possible war. I think we should have some considerable influence in that. The President did not seem to think we would have much influence, but at all events it is comforting to know that the policy of the present Government is against war. When the treaty for the renunciation of war was brought before this House in the year 1929 for ratification, the policy of the people who now form the Government was entirely contrary to the policy enunciated to-day by the President. They were in favour of war at that time and they voted against the treaty for the renunciation of war, the Treaty which was known as the Kellogg Pact.

It does not arise on this Estimate. The policy of the Party which is now the Government does not arise at this stage.

I submit it arises in this way, that I was about to make a statement to the effect that the Vice-President at that time stated in reference to the Kellogg Pact that he was not going to sign a pact which would prevent this country from making war on its powerful secular enemy, Great Britain, in order to bring that powerful secular enemy, Great Britain, to her senses.

The President has stated to-day that the Government policy was against war. I want to know from the President is the policy of the present Government different from what they stated at the time when they voted against the Kellogg Pact? I want to know if the policy of the Government is as stated—in Volume 28, column 279, of the Official Debates—by the Vice-President when he spoke in February, 1929, about the Treaty for the renunciation of war and referred to "our powerful secular enemy"? I think we are entitled to know if the policy of the Government with reference to war, which is stated by them to be against war, includes Great Britain? Because we have at the moment what is called an economic war with Great Britain. I think the House is entitled to an explicit declaration as to whether that policy covers our policy in relation to Great Britain? The Minister for Industry and Commerce in the present Government stated in 1929 also that the pact or any pact and no matter what pact was made or ever could be made would not prevent us from renewing the war here to achieve the long-desired independence of our country. I respectfully submit to you that I am entitled to ask for an explicit declaration of the policy of the Government in relation to war, as to whether that general pious declaration that the Government is against war includes our nearest neighbour, Great Britain.

I was anxious to know what the Government representatives have been doing at the International Labour Offices and what their policy was at Geneva, and also we would like to know something of the activities of the various subsidiary branches that are carried on in Geneva—the Health Section and any of those other Departments in which we took part for a long number of years and in which we had many friends in the international world. I was personally interested in one activity, the codification of international law. When I was last at Geneva I raised that very point. There had been a vast amount of work built up by the most eminent jurists of international law in Europe and the South American States with a view to having a general codification of international law. When that would be available it would be one of the subsidiary, if not one of the main, means by which war could be prevented in the future, or at least it would help to prevent the grave abuses which had taken place during the European War from being repeated in future wars.

The work done by these jurists included some codification aspects of Government law and we were anxious to help forward the codification of international law so far as possible, I put forward at the first Commission the policy of the Government and I took on that particular activity with renewed vigour. I have heard nothing since about the codification of international law. I would have thought that the President would have given us some information about that, particularly as he has in his office men who are well versed in the question. It may be a pure personal idiosyncrasy with me, but I happen to be interested in it.

I think that on the Vote on External Affairs and the League of Nations, where we could leave out for the moment our relations with Great Britain, we should have some common policy in which all parties in the House could agree and discuss and adopt without reference to Party views or political considerations. I would appeal to the President if he happens to be Minister for External Affairs next year, to adopt that attitude. We want to see a genuine interest displayed in this House in our foreign policy and foreign affairs and in our activities in the League of Nations. If that interest were displayed in this House it would be disseminated outside. I can see nothing but good to the general public outside this House from taking an interest in these matters—foreign affairs and foreign policy generally. It would react favourably upon our internal policy and internal affairs. I think the House is not being treated properly in not being given some account of the activities of our representatives at the League of Nations.

The President to conclude.

Surely not to conclude.

How many more speeches am I to make?

It is very difficult to discuss our activities at the League of Nations intelligently in the absence of any statement from the Government. I confine myself to asking one or two questions on this Vote. I think we are entitled to ask the President whether on the whole he considers that the League of Nations is justifying its existence at the present time and whether he looks forward with approval to our continued membership of the League? That is one thing I would like to ask him, in view of the various utterances made in the past on that question. Another matter, and one of the most interesting, if not the most interesting, that occurred in the League of Nations during the course of the past year was the admission of Russia to membership. That was an admission which the President supported at the time. In supporting it he made various observations about conditions in Russia in regard to civil and religious liberty. These were very proper observations and I think he expressed the hope that association with other nations in the League would lead to an improvement in internal conditions, I would like to hear from the President now if he is still of opinion that it was right to admit Russia into the League and whether he has taken any steps to ascertain the consequences of such admission upon the internal conditions of Russia with regard to civil and religious liberty?

There is another question I should like to ask him. As he is aware there has been much controversy in England and elsewhere, but especially in England, as to the principle known as collective security—whether it is more desirable that there should be individualism on the part of nations, that each nation, especially a nation separated from other nations by the sea, should try to isolate itself as much as possible from wars and rumours of wars, or whether there should be pacts and treaties embracing two or three or more powers and perhaps leading to some sort of balance of power such as existed in Europe before the war, leading to the division of Europe into camps glaring suspiciously and angrily at each other, or whether the aim of the League of Nations should be to establish a system of collective security in the full sense of the word? Does the present Government of the Free State accept the idea that I would like them to accept—that we should not isolate ourselves from Europe as a whole and from the world as a whole, but that we should take an interest in seeing that justice prevails in this world of ours, and in the case of the great misfortune of another war occurring, that we should be prepared to give at any rate our moral and economic support to whatever power or group of powers is declared by the League of Nations to be the innocent party. In other words, do we accept the general principle that we would always turn our hand against the aggressor in case of the very great misfortune of another war breaking out?

I should like to hear something from the President on these points. I, myself, am a very firm supporter of the League of Nations. I do not care what its faults or deficiencies are—I know they are very many—yet I see in it the only hope for suffering humanity, and the more its faults appear, the more actively we should try to correct them and to make it a success.

I should like to ask the President if there have been any activities on the part of the Irish Free State towards getting Germany back into the League of Nations. As we all know, the peace of Europe and the peace of the world depend upon getting Germany back into the League of Nations, and I should like to know if this country is playing its part in trying to bring that nation back into the League of Nations and thus avoid another great World War.

I sympathise very much with Deputies like Deputy Costello, who have shown themselves in the past to be, and who are obviously still interested in our activities abroad, in speaking as they have spoken here, about getting our people to take a keen interest in what is happening abroad. I wonder whether the Deputy is not wrong in thinking that they do not already take a very keen interest. I think that is the difference between us—that I believe the people of our country read the newspapers very carefully and keep in touch in the main with external affairs. We might have in our Department certain confidential information from day to day as to present tendencies, and so on, but these, as a rule, develop in a very short time; and though we might have a certain amount of advance information, the fact is that in a very short time it becomes information which everybody has. The position in connection with a Vote like this is that the majority of our people, and certainly Deputies, know very nearly as much about what has happened abroad over a period. We may know what is just about to happen, or what is just happening at the moment, but the fact is that things reveal themselves in a very short time, with the result that the information we may have a little in advance becomes information which everybody has. That is really one of the difficulties about making any useful statement in introducing this Vote.

We are asked to publish a report of what we have done at the League of Nations during the year. The fact is that the League's publications are in the Library and are available for Deputies who want to study them; and whenever there is any major activity in the League it is very fully reported in the Press. Does the Deputy want me to go back and publish a special report of the speeches I have made? That would be simply a waste of money and they would not be read by anybody except somebody who wants to refer to them for the purpose of quoting or misquoting them. If that is the position, they have the report of the League itself to which they can refer. So that I do not think any useful purpose would be served in presenting a report here containing the activities of the League, which are already published in the League's own publications and are available to Deputies, and the major part of which is published to the community at large through the Press.

As to our general attitude there, the difference between Deputy Costello and myself in the matter is clearly that I am somewhat more of a realist than he is. I have measured the amount of influence that we can exercise in the League. I do not want to minimise it in any way. I think that we have been playing our part and that there is a certain amount that we can do in conjunction with other States, which are similarly detached and have not special axes to grind, in preserving the peace of the world; that we have done and are doing a great deal. But I am not so foolish as to imagine that, when you have practices against air-raids to-day on the Continent and to-morrow in Great Britain, and so on, when Governments are in a mood like that, there is much use in a smaller nation trying to counsel them to peace. The only way I can see in which peace can be preserved at the moment is by having such a feeling against war that Governments before seeking the way of war will try genuinely the way of peace, realising what war under the new conditions will mean.

As to collective security, I have always felt that, unless the League of Nations has some sanctions by which its decisions can be somehow enforced, it is not going to be permanently of any use. It is of value in minor ways. It helps to bring people together who would not otherwise come together; and to that extent it helps to bring about an atmosphere of peace. But until there is some system by which the League will have effective sanctions to enforce its decisions, then it seems to me that the League will not be a real instrument for the preservation of peace. I felt that the whole time. Deputies on the opposite benches are as much aware as I am of how extremely difficult it is, when you get down to try to devise a system of sanctions, to get agreement upon it. I agree that if we had an agreed system of collective security it would be far more preferable and cheaper. But you have the old difficulty with sovereign States as to what extent they are prepared to surrender any portion of their sovereignty in order to bring about a situation which will amount to collective security. I do not think there is any nation at the present time, certainly none of the bigger Powers, prepared to rely on the collective sanctions which seem possible to the League. As everybody can see, all of them are working as rapidly as they can to build up armaments to defend themselves, whether that defence is merely what I might call of a passive kind or a very active defence, which is almost indistinguishable from aggression. So that the Deputy can only get from me what our desires and wishes are.

There is no basis upon which a definite policy can be framed or formed at the moment. There was a time at which I thought there were possibilities in certain Protocols of getting a development in that direction, but that was stopped. It seems to me that for the last few years there has been a retrograde movement rather than a forward movement in that direction. The League has received a few shattering blows within the last few years as regards its ability to prevent war. When one great Power snaps its fingers at the League it is not likely that another great Power is going to pay much attention to what the League says, except in so far as what the League says might affect the moral position of the great Power concerned. If it is prepared to sacrifice its moral position, then it is not going to bother much about what is thought by the Council of the League. That was the importance, from the League's point of view, in the case of a decision a few years ago: that, if it became clear that one big Power could defy the wishes of the majority of the members of the League and defy the wishes of the League, then it would be only a short time until every Power would act in a similar fashion. We have not yet got to a position in which the moral effect of a decision is going to deter a big Power, when it has special interests to serve, from following its own course. Of course, that means, in the long run, getting back to the old pre-1914 position, and that is what is happening in Europe at the moment, as far as I can judge at any rate; that we seem to have learned little from the last war and that there will be another war, and another war still, to end war.

It is well that the peoples of the nations should realise that, and I am sure that responsible people in every nation are bringing to the attention of their people the desperate situation into which we are rapidly drifting. The only way, I think, that you can avoid wars in the future is by giving to the League sanctions by which the League will be able to enforce its decisions. When we get to that stage, then I think we will have gone a good distance, but that is very far in the future. Instead of that, there might be some form of federation of the States of Europe, for a specific purpose at any rate. When we look back on history, however, we must come to the conclusion that where there has been agreement by groops of, shall we say, small States, or even of individuals, to submit to law, it has been for the most part by some one Power imposing its will upon the others. The United States, perhaps, would be regarded as an example where people came together and where a group of states came together and formed a Union without one state impressing itself or imposing its will upon the rest. I am sorry to think, however, that history indicates to us that the usual way in which people surrender rights which they regard as of a sovereign character is, as a rule, in the first instance, as a result of pressure by another Power which takes their rights from them, and later by beginning to consent to it. That is, I hope, not going to be the way in which the nations of Europe or the nations of the world will learn to obey some some system of law which they will make for themselves.

We were asked about the codification of international law. That is, more or less, at a stand-still, and I think that Deputies opposite will agree with me that it is very hard to speak about international law in the way in which we speak of national or domestic law. If certain principles were accepted it would be different, but law is law, for the most part, only where there is some power to enforce it, and except there is power for the enforcement of law, there is not much value in international law, because it is not going to be a protection. Law ought to be a protection for the rights of those who submit to it—to protect them against aggression. International law will become important and effective, to my mind at any rate, only when there will be some power which will give effect to and enforce its decrees. That brings us back to the original question of collective security, or the question which, in my opinion, is closely related to it—the question of sanctions to the League of Nations. I do not know whether there is any other particular point.

I mentioned Russia.

Well, on the question of Russia: first of all, with regard to the entry of Russia into the League, I was satisfied that, if the League was to serve any useful purpose, it should be its object to embrace within the League all the big States. It is for that reason, naturally, that I should like to see Germany, and, naturally, Japan also, become members of the League, but only members if they were prepared loyally to accept the principles and loyally to act in accordance with the general spirit of the League. I thought that Russia—one of the biggest States in the world, if not the biggest, in territory, certainly very large, and with a population, I think, of over 160,000,000 of people—was a State that the League should desire to have within its membership. For that reason, I supported the entrance of Russia into the League, but I pointed out at the same time that I would do so with far less questioning if we, in the League, had any assurance that principles, such as had been accepted by Russia when Russia made agreement with the United States, were accepted by Russia in regard to members of the League. I indicated the hope—and so far as I have had any speech with representatives of other States I have tried to get them to see that it would make generally for good relations between the other States and Russia, and for good relations in the world generally—that that freedom of conscience to which we, and, I would say, the vast majority of the people of the world, are devoted and which they consider as essential from a human point of view, would be guaranteed and given in Russia. I have tried to get that done.

Again, here is a case where we must be realists. By our statements we can do a great deal; we can make it of value to the representatives of Russia to meet world opinion in that matter. We have not the power, however, of bringing these results about that the bigger States have. I have no doubt whatever, that, if the representatives of the larger States pressed for the acceptance by Russia of principles and a line of action such as was accepted in regard to the United States, world relations generally would be greatly improved by that. I am certain, however, that it will require the advocacy of other States than ours. It would require, in my opinion, the advocacy of a number of the greater States, and if they did that, I feel convinced that the desirable object that I expressed in the League of Nations would be secured.

I would like to say before I close that Deputy Costello is right, as far as I can judge, in the view that we are regarded in Geneva as being in a very special position. The representatives of States there have come to know that we can be trusted to act fairly, to judge these questions that come before us impartially, and to work generally in the genuine spirit of the League; to help for peace and good relations amongst all States and peoples. We have that position. We are co-operating with other States, particularly as was suggested with the northern group of States—the Scandanavian Group. We have co-operated very frequently with them on lines of policy in that direction.

I do not want to say further about what has happened since we took office than this; that I do not think that, during our period of office, whatever prestige we had has been lessened. In fact, if I may say so, I believe that it has been greatly increased. I think that also is the opinion of most people who are in touch with Geneva. During the past year or so there were occasions when, in a signal way, we had appreciation of that fact by the League. One was when our representative in Geneva was appointed High Commissioner in Dantzig. Another was when Mr. Justice Meredith was made Vice-President of the Saar Plebiscite Tribunal. These were indications, in situations of delicacy and difficulty, where it was most important to get representatives who could be depended upon to act impartially and with a single eye to fair play and to promoting the interests of peace, when we were definitely in the forefront.

I am quite satisfied with the work that is being done by our representatives in Geneva, and by our Department. But, of course, I am not going to pretend that I am satisfied with the League of Nations in its present form as such. I do not think that anybody could be quite satisfied with it. I am only hoping that, before we are caught again by another world war, we will realise, without having to be taught in that manner, how necessary it is for the various States to co-operate, by arbitration or otherwise, in getting rid of those immediate causes of war. Our representatives—so far as I was a representative I can speak for myself— have pursued that end without deviation, and we propose to continue in the same manner.

Vote put and agreed to.
Progress reported, the Committee to sit again to-morrow.