Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 16 No. 2

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Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £30,691 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1927, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí na Roinne Gnóthaí Coigríche.

That a sum not exceeding £30,691 be granted to complete the sum necessary [257] to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of External Affairs.

MINISTER for EXTERNAL AFFAIRS (Mr. Fitzgerald): Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  I do not propose to make a very long statement on this Estimate. A great deal has been written about this Department during the last year or so, but I do not think there has been anything written or said which one could dignify by the name of criticism. It will be noticed that the Estimate falls under two headings: Headquarters' External Affairs, that is, the office in Dublin, and Representatives Abroad—this embraces various offices, including the United States, London, Paris, Brussels and Geneva. I have on a previous occasion given a general history of the work of these offices, and on the present occasion I think I need only refer to what is actually one of the most important aspects of our work, and that is our inter-relation with countries in the Commonwealth of Nations. When we came into existence a great deal was said about Dominion status. There is actually a whole library written about the matter, but as that is the result of growth and is subject to continous growth, there is no book written which could actually give an exact statement as to what dominion status means.

Mr. GOREY: Information on Denis John Gorey  Zoom on Denis John Gorey  Is this in order?

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Pádraic Ó Maille  Zoom on Pádraic Ó Maille  The Minister is making his statement.

Mr. GOREY: Information on Denis John Gorey  Zoom on Denis John Gorey  We had to keep close to the sub-heads under the different Votes and were not allowed to go outside anything in the Votes. Why, therefore, should we have this now?

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  I was leading up to the fact that part of our work this year will be taking part in the Imperial Conference, and I wanted to give the House some ideas on that. The Imperial Conference is a body which meets, but which has no absolute power. It is not able to control anybody. It is a meeting of representatives [258] of those States which form the British Commonwealth of Nations, and comes together pre-eminently for the purpose of deciding what the relations of those States will be. I am trying to make clear what the work of the office is. I was explaining the work of this Department for this reason: that when we took over office it was entirely new work which had no definition. Part of our work this year, I think, will be to help to define the position that we occupy. It is difficult to do that because the position lacks definition owing to a sort of unity associated with diversity. The British Commonwealth of Nations exists to some extent as a unit, but is diversified. I think this year we may be able to make some progress on the lines that I think are best, namely, that I think the unity which is good and which can be used for a good purpose is only feasible in so far as it represents unanimity. That unanimity can only exist by a lack of friction, and that lack of friction can only exist by a recognition of diversity. Now, I mention this because other aspects of this Vote have been dealt with on previous occasions and so far as it goes, although Deputy Gorey finds the whole thing rather amusing, I think it is a matter of vital interest to this country and of vital importance that this whole situation should be cleared up as far as possible. The Vote this year is partly to cover this very important work.

The office in New York, I understand, is doing very good work. I hesitate to speak about that as I believe there are certain Deputies here who can speak with first-hand knowledge of it. I have never been nearer than 3,000 miles to it. The general work of the office in London includes the inspection of produce, and of the offices abroad carrying out investigations required by the Home Department as to trade openings for Free State produce, supplying names and addresses of likely importers, commercial inquiries regarding financial standing of firms, special inquiries regarding new processes, and generally attendance at exhibitions, fairs, markets, reporting on price fluctuations, trade openings, etc. Our [259] chief offices are those of the High Commissioner in London and the office in Washington. I do not think I could give a full account of the functions of the High Commissioner, they are so far-reaching and varied. Apart from the ordinary functions of our office in Washington it has done very good work in enlightening not only the ordinary people in America but Irish citizens in America as to the condition of affairs in Ireland. Our Minister Plenipotentiary there has addressed very many important bodies, such as the Association of Commerce, Chicago; Crichton Club, Columbus, Ohio; University of Michigan; North Western University, Illinois; University College, Evenston, do.; Irish Fellowship Club, Chicago, and the Mid-day Club, Springfield, Illinois.

The League of Nations is a separate Vote, so that I do not think I need deal with that now. I wish to say that during the existence of this Department we have brought home more clearly to the nations of the world than has ever been done before what exactly was the status of a country known as a Dominion. The advent of Ireland, from the fact that the Irish nation was known historically and culturally, made known to people abroad, even to a greater extent than did the event of the signature to the Treaty of Versailles, that these nations known as Dominions, were full sovereign States, exercising the full rights of sovereign States in the world. Our general policy in foreign affairs is that Ireland which has now become an international person should be a respected international person. With regard to international relations generally, we believe that these should be based on equity. We have only one small voice, but I think that among the nations we have already and will in the future use that small voice to good effect.

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Pádraic Ó Maille  Zoom on Pádraic Ó Maille  There is an amendment on the Order Paper to this Vote in the name of Deputy Cooper. Is the amendment being moved?

Amendment not moved.

[260]Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  I am sorry that the Minister seems to have been diverted by the rather undiscriminating hilarity of Deputy Gorey from making the statement which I presume he intended to make, descriptive of the work of his Department, and giving us an indication of the policy of the Executive Council in respect to external affairs. If I thought the Minister had an intention of that kind and had been diverted by what may have seemed to him a lack of desire on the part of Deputies to hear his statement, I would invite him, on my own behalf at any rate, to resume it either now or at a later date. I do not know whether it was the intention of the Minister to make such a statement, but the one he has made certainly does not satisfy the requirements of the case.

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  I can deal with that matter more fully in winding up the debate.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Yes, but that does not help us to understand or to discuss the policy of the Department, which we would require to do, based on the Minister's statement. I want to say that the statement made by the Minister by no means satisfies the desire of some Deputies to know what the work of the Department has been in several rather important matters, or the policy of the Department in relation to external affairs and to countries associated within what is called the British Commonwealth of Nations as well as to countries outside that association of nations. The Minister has told us what would be the foundation of his policy but he has not told us what the policy is, and we are really lacking in information on these matters. We were promised a few days ago that the Dáil would likely be adjouring early in July. Presumably during the period of adjournment the proposed Inter-Dominion Conference will be held. This surely would have been an occasion when some indication of the policy of the Department to be put forward at that Conference might have been given to the House. I think we might have heard from the Minister, not in detail, but in a general way, whether it is proposed to support the views that have [261] been so recently expressed in South Africa regarding the position of the Dominions in relation to Great Britain and to the Government of Great Britain, and whether there has been any development between the Department here and the Departments of Dominions and of Great Britain in regard to proposals which we discussed here tentatively some months ago touching the responsibility and the liability of Ireland and of all other Dominions in case of one of the associated nations being at war. That matter has not been very much discussed publicly, but it has been touched upon in this House sufficiently at least to prompt the Minister to consider the matter, and perhaps to approach other Governments on the point.

Then there is a question of great importance in relation to the World Court of International Justice at The Hague. It is within the recollection of Deputies who are interested in these and kindred matters that the United States Senate recently took a certain line in regard to the proposal that the United States Government should accept the jurisdiction in certain matters of this World Court of International Justice. They agreed, with many reservations—a number of reservations—to adhesion to this World Court, and as I understand, they have submitted to the countries that gave their adhesion to this principle of a World Court of International Justice, a list of their reservations. Their reservations, as I have said, have been circulated among the countries that have intimated their association with this World Court. I would like to know whether a list of those reservations has been received by the Department of External Affairs, and whether as a matter of fact, this Government has approved of—has given its adherence to—the World Court of International Justice.

I understand a special meeting has been convened, and will be held in September, of all the States that have intimated their adhesion to this World Court. If the Saorstát Government is recognised as having given its adherence, it should have been called to that conference. I think a suggestion has been made that the fact of Great Britain [262] having associated itself with this World Court before the date of the setting-up of the Saorstát involves our acceptance. The question that at once arises is whether other nations— whether the League of Nations or the United States—are treating the Saorstát in this matter as a distinct entity, and whether our Government has been summoned to attend this conference in September. It is a matter of some importance, and I would like to have some information from the Minister in regard to it.

The Minister has, by implication, invited Deputies who have had an opportunity of seeing the work of the Trade Office in New York to express their views. Of course, it is impossible for any visitor to express an opinion in regard to the work at the Office beyond what could be seen by, more or less, superficial observation. I had an opportunity of observing the work in that office, and I think it is certainly of great importance; it is certainly very necessary. The conclusion I came to as a result of inquiries made when I was in New York was that it was not only important to have an office there, but it would be important, also, to have an office in Boston. I believe such an office would pay for itself; I am speaking now of the Passport Office. One can see, by the figures given on page 275 of the book of Estimates, that there were extra receipts payable to the Exchequer from the U.S.A. visa fees to the extent of £10,900. I am not quite clear as to what is meant by extra receipts in that respect, but it is apparent the office there more than pays for itself. The total receipts go a considerable distance towards paying the cost of representation in America. I am quite convinced, from my observations, that an office in New York is absolutely necessary, in addition to the Washington office, if the Saorstát is to have anything like proper recognition in America and if it is to do the work which is necessary. I do not think I shall further comment upon this Vote at this stage. I hope to have fuller information from the Minister as to the policy of his Department touching the matters I have alluded to.

[263]Mr. HALL: Information on David Hall  Zoom on David Hall  Was it quite in order to mention Deputy Cooper's amendment in regard to sub-head A while we were on the general discussion?

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Pádraic Ó Maille  Zoom on Pádraic Ó Maille  Deputy Cooper was not here to move his amendment.

Mr. HALL: Information on David Hall  Zoom on David Hall  I submit the amendment should not have been taken until we were definitely on sub-head A.

Mr. HOGAN (Clare): Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I wish to express regret at some of the things the Minister said. He told us we were to have an Imperial Conference soon for the purpose of deciding the status of a Dominion. If I understood him rightly, he said that was one of the principal matters that would come before the conference. I am not at all satisfied that we should define the status of a Dominion. In my opinion the matter would be better left in a nebulous state for a lengthy period; probably there are many things we could claim while it is in a nebulous condition that we could not claim if the status were defined. The Minister mentioned that other nations in the Commonwealth would be represented at this conference. What is their representative capacity? Whom will those people who attend the conference represent? There are nations in the British Commonwealth of Nations which have Governments superimposed upon them. Are the representatives of those super-imposed Governments going to discuss what Dominion status is? In accepting the definition of Dominion status that these people will give, will we also accept their position within the British Commonwealth of Nations?

The British Commonwealth of Nations is an international fallacy; it has no place in reality. Where the predominant partner is concerned, the British Commonwealth of Nations disappears, and the predominant partner gets all the privileges. I submit there is one way by which we might express ourselves in regard to status, and our insistence on our status, and that is by staying away from the conference. Abstention would more clearly define our position towards the British Commonwealth of Nations than any other [264] action we could perform. It would indicate, in a clear-cut fashion, that we are a distinct entity. That is a suggestion that is worthy of consideration.

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  Deputy Johnson asked me to give some indication as to what our attitude would be at the Imperial Conference and how we stand in regard to certain statements made by representatives of other Dominions in other places. I think I have said before that Dominion status might be described as adolescent but not entirely adult. I think equality is recognised. The non-implementation can be recognised as existing in three distinct spheres. Under one heading is the office of the Governor-General. The office originally was that of a representative of the Colonial Office, as it was then. Although the Governor-General's office has evolved entirely from that, there are still existing certain anomalies reminiscent of it. I think these anomalies should be removed. Another thing is that although the equality of status is recognised, there has been, so far as I know, practically no exercise of extra territorial powers. I think extra territorial powers should be possessed and exercised, not merely by one member of the Commonwealth, but by all co-equal members of the Commonwealth. The third general heading is that it should be made clear, beyond any doubt, not only in principle but in every detail of implementation, that in so far as the work of the Government of any individual Dominion is concerned, no one should possess power to have any say in regard to, to interfere with, or veto the work of that Dominion, except the Government of that Dominion. I think those three headings, more or less, cover every important matter that Deputy Johnson could have had in mind.

Deputy Hogan suggests that I mentioned the Imperial Conference had powers. The Imperial Conference has no powers whatsoever; but nations working together find it useful to come together at times and consider any difficulties that may arise in their so working. I do not think it has the power exactly to define matters, but where anomalies exist the representatives [265] of the Governments have the power to agree that it is time these anomalies were done away with. I do not think they can all be done away with at any one Imperial Conference; but in friendly council the representatives of the Government can agree that the full implementation of equality should now be exercised, in so far as it can be exercised at present, without introducing anything particularly revolutionary, but at the same time indicating the process of growth and of rapid growth.

Deputy Hogan also referred to the status of Government super-imposed on members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The only representatives who can have anything to say in regard to Dominion status are the representatives of the Dominions, and amongst the Dominions I include Great Britain. The Deputy also referred to the predominant partner. There is no predominant partner where there is equality. There is the basic fact, namely, that Great Britain is most powerful militarily, financially, and economically; necessarily Great Britain carries most weight.

The Deputy suggested that the best way of indicating our status would be to stay away from the conference. Unfortunately, there is the fact that one of the things we ought to look for at this Imperial Conference is that the British Government would itself take steps to make clear to the Governments of other countries what exactly the status of Dominions is, namely, that they are co-equal and that they are [266] fully adult States exercising all the powers of States. It is rather unfortunate that should be necessary, but I think the Deputy will realise that nations and governments will accept a statement from the British Government that it recognises us as co-equal, much sooner than they will accept the statement that we regard ourselves as co-equal. It is an unfortunate fact that the word of the man with the big gun and the big pocket should carry more weight than that of the other man; but that is so to a great extent in ordinary human nature, and it is certainly so in the life of nations.

I do not propose staying away from the Imperial Conference. I believe that very useful work can be done there. It is time the anomalies I have referred to were done away with. The anomalies exist under the three headings to which I have alluded, and which, I think, Deputy Johnson will agree, cover any points he had in mind. I have considered the thing very carefully, and I think under these three headings fall all the anomalies of the apparent infringement of our co-equal status. With regard to the International Court, perhaps it would be better if I dealt with that on the League of Nations Estimate. I move that the Committee report progress.

The Dáil went out of Committee.

Progress reported, the Committee to sit again to-morrow.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m., until Thursday, 3rd June, at 3 p.m.

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