No. 98 NAI DFA Berne Embassy Box 5

Letter from Joseph P. Walshe to Michael MacWhite (Geneva)
(L.N. 4/7/90)

Dublin, 17 June 1927

A Chara,

In confirmation of our telegram of to-day's date I am directed by the Minister for External Affairs to instruct you to attend the meetings of the Limitation of Naval Armaments Conference which begins on Monday, 20th instant, until the arrival of the Minister and the Attorney General.1

The Conference has mainly a constitutional interest for the Saorstát. For the first time at a political international conference leading to the making of a political convention all the states of the Commonwealth are represented completely and exclusively by their own appointed delegates - in other words, the British delegates for the first time at such a conference hold powers formally limited to Great Britain, Northern Ireland and those parts of the Empire which are not separate members of the League. They do not therefore in any sense represent the Dominions and there can be no question of an excluding clause in the body of the treaty or an addendum to the British signature. This position has only been reached after prolonged correspondence with the British Government which Mr. Harding, Permanent Under Secretary of the Dominions Office is taking with him and which he will show you. Canada supported us throughout.

The Government is not especially interested in the technical proposals beyond wishing to have records of the discussions as far as possible for the use of our Defence department and they desire to support any proposals of the British Government which are in accordance with the general principle of gradual disarmament. The only important point is that our support should be formally given by our own spokesmen and not through the British representative. If at any time therefore at a conference with the other Commonwealth States it should be proposed that the British delegate should speak on behalf of the other states of the Commonwealth it would be well to object on the ground that the Dominion delegates, possessing complete and exclusive powers of representation, should speak for themselves.

It is well to remember that technical suggestions or modifications of any kind coming from us might be used as an argument against us should the question of contributions to the Navy arise at some future date. The Minister therefore wishes you to act as a silent member unless the constitutional position of the Dominions as separate units for the purposes of representation is at issue, and that position should as far as possible be secured beforehand at inter-Commonwealth private meetings rather than in the full conference.

The Minister is reluctant to impose this task on you after the work of the two conferences which have just ended. This Conference is taking place in Geneva by accident and has no particular relation to your ordinary work. He also understands that your general position in relation to League Conferences is not helped by having to act in such close conjunction with the British delegates as to appear to be almost a part of one single delegation. It is not possible yet to say at what precise date the Minister and Attorney General will leave for Geneva.

Mise, le meas,
[signed] S.P. Breathnach

1 John A. Costello.

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