No. 93 NAI DT S6157B

Extract from the opening speech of the Irish delegation to the Ottawa Conference)

Ottawa, 22 July 1932

[matter omitted]

This Conference comes at a time in the world's history when radical changes in the whole fabric of inter-State economic and financial relationships seem to be a necessary preliminary to further progress if indeed they are not absolutely essential to prevent a breakdown in our present civilisation. The Government of the Irish Free State are as conscious of the extreme gravity of the situation as the Governments of the other States of the Commonwealth. We realise that a foremost part in finding an adequate solution for the crises can be taken by a group of States associated together as we are associated. The success of this Conference is of vital import to all nations. We enter into the discussions of the Conference with a friendly desire to co-operate with the other States of the Commonwealth, and with the intention of making general trade agreements or particular agreements where such agreements would be to the mutual advantage of the parties.

Special difficulties have arisen in recent weeks which affect about 85% of our external trade and which may involve substantial changes in the form and direction of that trade as well as in the internal economic structure of our country. Apart from these difficulties our economic position is in many respects unlike that of the other States here represented. Our economic development has hardly begun. We are still, and shall be for some considerable time to come, engaged in the task of building up the elements of an economic life suitable to the conditions of our people. It is, therefore, more difficult for us to see the lines along which our contribution to the common endeavour must proceed.

Our aim is the aim of all organised States, namely, to provide such economic conditions in our country as will allow the greatest possible number of our people to live there in peace and comfort. We seek to put an end to the anomaly of one-sided development which has caused a country relatively rich in natural resources to be the one country in Europe whose population has steadily decreased for almost a century. Like every other Government represented at this Conference, we seek, first of all, the interests of our own people, and any acceptance of general principles of economic relationship must be governed by the degree to which they serve that end. We believe that the freest possible development of each State of the Commonwealth is the best guarantee of mutual co-operation and friendship, and that no inter-State relationship can have a permanent character which is not established on a completely free basis or which leaves either party in a position of inferiority.

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