Dáil Éireann - Volume 67 - 19 May, 1937
Committee on Finance. - Vote 68—League of Nations.
Minister for External Affairs (The President) Eamon de Valera
Minister for External Affairs (The President): I move:—
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £8,612 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, 1938, chun Síntiús mar chabhair do Chostaisí Chumann na Náisiún, agus chun Costaisí eile mar gheall air sin.
That a sum not exceeding £8,612 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, 1938, for a Contribution towards the Expenses of the League of Nations, and for other Expenses in connection therewith.
Since the House last had occasion to discuss and vote and estimate to provide for the continued membership by Saorstát Eireann of the League of Nations, there has been very little of interest to report. The Assembly of the League had two sessions, at both of which this country was represented by a delegation. The first of these sessions took place in July, 1936. The second of these meetings of the League Assembly took place in September, 1936, when the ordinary session of the 17th Assembly was held. The session was attended by a relatively small delegation from Saorstát Eireann, and its most notable achievement was the appointment of a special committee to study and report on the vital question of reforming the Covenant—a question which had been raised by most delegations, including our own, at the previous session in July. That committee is now at work. In proposing this Vote, I am, therefore, proposing we should await that decision before committing Saorstát Eireann to any new policy with regard to her membership of the League of Nations.
As the House will recall, when speaking on the External Affairs and League of Nations Estimates last year, I expressed the view that, falling the ultimate amendment of the League Covenant in a direction which I indicated at the time or until we could be sure that no reform was going to emerge as a result of the almost unanimous demand for a better League, it would be unwise for a State placed in such circumstances as ours to withdraw from Geneva. It is too soon to prophesy what the Committee on the Application of the Principles of the Covenant, which has already met twice in the last six months, will recommend. In the meantime, the Government desire to co-operate loyally in such useful activities as the League of Nations initiates or directs. In this regard, I wish to inform the House that, during the last year, Saorstát Eireann has participated fully in the various work; social, economic and otherwise, of the League.
Under this head, we have become parties to a number of international agreements designed to improve and strengthen neighbourly relations among States, such as the International Conventions on the Stamps Laws in connection with Cheques and with Bills of Exchange and Promisory Notes. The question of our accession to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women of Full Age will shortly be submitted to the House for approval. As a result of our adoption of similar League Conventions in previous years, we have, in the last year, been able to negotiate certain agreements and administrative arrangements with various States  members of the League. For example, we have concluded a bilateral agreement with Great Britain whereby fiscal permits in respect of motor vehicles touring in the two countries will be abolished as from the 1st June next. That arrangement was made possible by the fact that we were already parties to the League of Nations Convention of 1931 regarding the taxation of foreign motor vehicles. Another such consequential arrangement was made during the year with the other parties to the Drugs Limitation Convention of 1931. That arrangement was essentially of an administrative character and was, therefore, not brought before the House. These are some of the social and similar activities of the League in which we participated. Some of the Deputies, speaking on the other Vote, seemed to suggest that there was some want on our part in not co-operating with the League as we used to do formerly. As everybody knows, the present position of the League of Nations is, more or less, a parlous one. What the future is going to be is very difficult to tell. The tests which the League had to face were extremely difficult, and these tests have certainly shaken the League to its foundations. I do not wish to say anything at this stage with regard to what our future attitude to the League will be. That will largely depend on the direction in which the Covenant will be amended. I have spoken on a former occasion as to the dangers inherent in the position as it stands for a country like ours. Unless these dangers are satisfactorily removed, it is quite possible we may have to recommend that it would be in the interests of this country to withdraw from the League. Personally, I hope that will not happen. I was one of those who believed there were great possibilities in the League. I believed that, for small nations particularly, the League of Nations was valuable and could be used by them as a safeguard, provided the general spirit of the Covenant was acceptable and the obligations of membership were such as small nations could properly bear. I do not want to enter into a purely hypothetical discussion on these matters  at this stage. We have simply to wait and see, while doing our best ourselves in getting the Covenant amended in the direction we think proper. If we fail, and if the amendments are not of the kind we think right and wise, then the only thing that would be left to us would be to recommend the House that we should withdraw. As I said, I hope the changes will be of such a character as will commend themselves to us and enable us to recommend to the House a continuance of our membership.
Professor O'Sullivan Professor O'Sullivan
Professor O'Sullivan: I am glad the President expressed at least the hope that such amendment as might be proposed in the League Covenant would be of a character which would enable us to stay in the League. I should rather say that he hoped that they will be of such a character as will not drive us out of the League. I think that that is what the President meant. He did not mean that the amendments would be ideal but rather that they would not be of such a character as make our continued membership impossible. I should like to have that made quite clear.
I am rather sorry the President did not indicate how exactly he would like the League reformed. He was quite right in taking up the line that here is an institution in which all States of Europe are interested and in which they ought to be interested, whether they are in the League or not. He especially stressed of what importance the League might well prove as a protection for small nations, and I think that was realised for many years by small nations. He spoke of the test to which the League had been put and the failure to stand up to that test, that failure leading to a consideration of certain amendments in the League Covenant. I should like the President to be so good as to indicate in his reply exactly in what direction he thinks useful amendments might go in amending the League Covenant. I do not want detail, but he might indicate the general lines. He referred to his statement here last year and, speaking from memory, I can say that I am not quite clear in what direction he saw a future working possibility for the League—whether it was in loosening  its powers or making them more stringent. Perhaps the President will indicate along what lines the mind of the Government is running on this important matter.
I think he possibly was inclined to over-stress the dark side of the picture. Undoubtedly, the League did get a grave shaking, possibly in prestige more than in actuality, a shaking in prestige ultimately affecting its real influence, but I should be very sorry to think that an institution of that kind would be too readily scrapped by the nations of Europe because it has failed to act up to the highest hopes they had of it, whatever those hopes may have been. What I am rather uneasy about at the moment is that, all through Europe, I notice a number of people very much bent on peace and determined to have a European war, if necessary, in order to enforce peace. I think the President, if he studies the European Press, and even the Press off the shores of the Continent of Europe, will find a very fair amount of that going on, and I should be very sorry to think that the League might be used as an organ, not for preserving peace, but really for declaring and waging war.
The usefulness of the League, it seems to me, to a large extent ends once a general war of that kind starts. Its raison d'être has come to an end for the time being, at all events. Its main purpose should be to smooth out the preliminaries that lead up to that breach, but once the arbitrament of war comes and you have Europe divided into two hostile camps, whether you call one the League off Nations and the other the Anti-League of Nations does not very much matter.
I think the really useful work can be done in the preliminary stages of trying to avoid the war atmosphere that very often is being worked up; and I am afraid that we have had instances in the past six months or the past year of a war atmosphere being worked up in different countries. It was not by any means confined to one country. Of course, I am very well aware that every country takes a noble line in the cause of peace. It, and its allies, are arming purely for the cause of peace and the other side is threatening war.  That is the propaganda that goes on, but you are facing a rather dangerous situation in a war atmosphere of that kind and it is a pity that the League is not being utilised more to stem or to damp down such propaganda. What I often see, however, is that strong supporters of the League idea in certain countries are amongst the most vigorous advocates of a course that may easily lead to war, and I find that very hard to reconcile with a genuine desire to preserve peace.
I can understand a certain amount of impatience—and there is a motion down on the Order Paper for a long time which has not been moved—on the part of people with what they call the failure of the League, but I always ask myself, however natural impatience of that kind may be: Is it wise to give it expression? I say that at the moment, instead of giving expression to impatience of that kind, however natural it may be, a much more useful function would be fulfilled for Europe and, therefore, for ourselves, rather by stressing the opposite point of view—the necessity of keeping a body of this kind going, no matter how near to extinction it may seem or how moribund it may appear in the eyes of many. As long as it is not dead it seems to me that there is always a possibility of reviving it. I think people have very little knowledge of the relations of States either at the present time or in past times, and of the motives that move States, and very little knowledge of human nature, if they think that an institution of this kind could work smoothly from the very start. It must receive sets-back. I do not see how they are to be avoided, but that is no excuse for despairing of good work for the League in future, or for despairing of a better League.
It is, as I said this time 12 months, an extremely slow and arduous work. It requires, if you like, a great deal of faith, but the possibility of a breakdown, and what may follow a breakdown, seems to me so appalling that one is almost compelled, whether one will or no, to have faith and to work, at all events, for a better understanding between the peoples. Cynicism is  extremely easy. A man can get a reputation for being hard-headed, worldly-wise and all that sort of thing by pointing out that such and such a nation is looking after its own interests. The necessity of recognising that that is so is the very foundation of the League. If nations acted altruistically there would be no necessity for the League. It is the fact that nations can be relied on to act selfishly and egotistically that an instrument like the League is necessary and may do good work.
When some people point out “Well, it broke down in the Italian affair,” I wonder what they would have considered success in the Italian affair. I am speaking of the number of people who point to that as the great instance of League failure. If you just try to get at the back of their minds to find out what many of them—I do not say all—mean, you find that they mean that it was a pity that Europe on that occasion did not drift into a universal war, at least between the big Powers, into which the small Powers might be pulled. That is what is at the back of the minds of many, and, once that stage is reached, I think there is an end of the League. You will have to fight that out, and, after the war, start a new League, if you can. Many people look on the Italian failure, as they call it, as proof of the gross incompetency of the League—and it is condemned from both sides, firstly, because it went so far, and, secondly, because it did not go far enough. In the case of the side I am arguing against—those who say that it did not go far enough—what they really complained of was that they had not a war and that the League was not used as an instrument of war.
That brings me back again to what I stressed before. One of the principal dangers that I see to the League and its continued success very often are the advocates of the League. They have, strange to say, a warlike mentality. Their idea is that on peoples who are not yet accustomed to bear international sanctions or international interference, who, in other words, are not prepared to acknowledge any kind of limitation of their sovereignty for the general good, war should be immediately  waged. That is not a solution of our troubles. We must realise that there may be failure after failure; but again and again, against the spectacular failures of the last couple of years, there is to be put the great difficulties that, in its initial years, the League was able to surmount, and the number of wars it prevented. You may say to me: “Yes, wars between small peoples”; but we know perfectly well, without going beyond our own lifetime, how wars between small peoples can very quickly become world wars. Therefore, a most useful work was done by the League, and it is a mistake to overlook that. I know it is passing through a period of lack of prestige at present, lack of authority if you like; all the more reason, I say, why a State like ours should throw its lot in and try to make a better situation.
I admit we are but a small State; but, as the President knows, some of the most useful work was done in the League by small States; work altogether beyond their material strength and beyond their military power. The work they were able to do was tremendous. We did enjoy a very peculiar position in the League. We were a small State, always capable of taking up an independent attitude; and actually so doing. At the same time, owing to the fact that we were a member of another League of Nations, if I might so put it—the British Commonwealth—and, owing to the fact as well that though we were only some 3,000,000 people in this country, there were millions of our fellow-countrymen in America and Australia, undoubtedly, that gave us a position of importance in the League altogether beyond the material strength of this country.
I think we can still be a useful factor in building up the League. I do not expect spectacular results immediately —it would be a mistake to look for them. So far as I am personally concerned, I prefer a slow, steady advance rather than an effort suddenly to forge an instrument which would be absolutely all-powerful in the morning. If you try a thing of that kind, you are liable to promote the very result you are anxious to avoid. Therefore,  I should like to see ourselves playing a part still in the building up, realising that it is a slow business; that if we can advance slightly it is as much as we can hope for at present, but at least having all hope and looking forward and not backwards.
We got a certain amount of hope from the President on this. It is his hope that we shall be able to remain members of this institution. However much we may regret some things done from one point of view or another— there are various opinions on that— however much we may realise that certain Powers at one time or another seemed to lead the League, still we should recognise that there is useful work to be done. I speak of certain big Powers as more or less leading the League. That does happen; it is inevitable that it should happen. Wherever you have an Assembly of that kind, you will get some kind of unacknowledged leadership; but the leadership is not always the same. I do not think, for instance, that two years ago, so far as there was leadership in the League, it was exactly the same as ten years ago, or eight years ago, when I was more intimately acquainted with the working of the League than now. That will change. You cannot deprive great Powers of the influence they have owing to their strengthened position; but at least there is this, that there is no place where small Powers can make their influence more effectively felt than in the League. For that reason, I hope we shall not see the necessity for withdrawing. I know we are committing ourselves sometimes to things we may not like; any kind of co-operation involves us in that. If you think you can stand alone, having nothing to do with anybody, of course you need not commit yourself to the resolution of any group. But, if you think that from co-operation something useful can be got, then the time will come when you may have to sacrifice your own personal opinions of the moment in the cause of the general good.
Therefore, I again express the hope that this State will be convinced that there is a future for this institution. I cannot see much hope for the future  peace of Europe if there is a definite collapse of an institution of this kind, because the forces which lead to the collapse of an institution of this kind are forces which will bring about war. The only substitute for it is rival groups of Powers. Whether that will more quickly lead to war or stave off war, no one can tell. Nobody can say that the system of balance of power is an instrument for the long observance of peace. I do not think it is. In the long run, I think it is bound to lead to a break-up. I cannot see any useful alternative, if peace is to be preserved, to a League of this kind, whatever its faults are, and I realise the weakness of it as much as anybody else. That is the situation which faces every nation in Europe. I think we are interested, and ought to play our part in the making of a better League, if possible.
Mr. Dockrell Mr. Dockrell
Mr. Dockrell: I should like to ask the President to outline somewhat the improved arrangement between this country and Great Britain for motor cars touring the two countries. How far is that going to be an improvement on the existing arrangement through the Automobile Association? Is there going to be a similar arrangement with Northern Ireland?
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: I understand that the President when introducing the Vote confined himself to the most general speculation as to whether it might be reasonably hoped the League would survive at all or not, generally leaving us under the impression that he hoped in a general kind of way that it would. In so far as he hopes for that, I think everyone on this side of the House would cordially concur. But I feel that there devolves on every nation which believes in the League and is a member of it a heavy responsibility, quite regardless of whether their material resources are great or small. At this time, when the reorganisation of the League of Nations is contemplated by everybody, I think we ought to be asking ourselves the question, when that reorganisation comes to be put in force, what are we going to aim at?
I think we are driven to choose between two clear alternatives, because  at present it does not seem possible to achieve both of them simultaneously. One ideal would be universality, and the other, efficiency in the settlement by mediation or by force, if needs be, of threatened international conflicts. If we aim at the ideal of universality, we cannot do so seriously, because it is hard to imagine that, in our day, the United States of America will be prevailed upon to become active participants in the League of Nations. If, on the other hand, we aim at strict efficiency, I do not see how you can escape from giving the League some power, some authority to constitute itself, or to appoint a judge in international affairs and to join in a pledge to support the verdicts of that tribunal whether it be the League itself or a league appointed to apply whatever sanctions may be necessary to enforce its judgment. If you accept that idea you have got to face this question—how far can you hope to induce the nations of the world at this stage of the world's history to recognise that, taking the long view, it is better to engage in war, if war was necessary, in order to consolidate the principle of international justice, even when one's vital interests are not directly affected by the issue in defence of which the League of Nations asks its members to go to war. Frankly, the matter is one which I have thought over and find extremely difficult to resolve. But I think we are running away from the issues as a Parliament and a country unless we do face these two alternatives, and unless we make up our minds which of them we are going definitely to support.
It would be a ghastly catastrophe for the world if the League of Nations disappeared altogether, because a great many people forget when they discuss the League of Nations that it has functions quite other than its political functions. The international services which have been created and maintained at Geneva have conferred immense benefits on humanity. If it had no political function at all the League would still do a great deal of good to the nations of the world. Even if it abandoned, temporarily, all political  functions there is the fact that it brings together at Geneva, at regular intervals, the representatives of a large number of States to discuss matters of social policy, scientific research and things of that kind. It also creates an international life which induces a better understanding amongst the nations of the world, and it is a constant force operating against the poisonous detachment with which economic self-sufficiency threatens the world. Here, I am speaking personally. I would like to see the world accept a rule of law similar to that which every nation accepts within its own bounds, and once that law has been accepted, that force, if need be, should be used by every civilised unit to punish any nation which attempts to break the law. I recognise the immense difficulties that would be encountered all over the world in inducing people to accept that point of view. But I believe that if it were accepted, and if you could get even a restricted number of nations to accept it, that that is the surest road to enduring universality. If you take the easier road and make the League of Nations a purely consultative body and secure universality, there sooner or later some great catastrophe will occur, and the considerations provided by the League's constitution will follow the authority which you will then have, and in the wave of disillusion which is affecting the world, your universality will be blown away. On the other hand if you will progress through universality to efficiency, by the time you would achieve universality, you would have established definitely the rule of international law and it would be no more probable that the League would then disintegrate than it would be probable that a civilised State would find itself, overnight, in a state of anarchy.
It is one of the advantages of the American system of Government that it can discuss these general questions in a general way. Both sides, the Opposition and the Government and other interested parties share their joint knowledge and their joint view and arrive in matters of foreign policy at something like a unanimous policy. Here, no such facilities exist  and I think it is a matter greatly to be deplored that we cannot evolve a method of discussing such matters with the Government or rather a method of the Government discussing such matters with the Opposition and other sections of this House, and thereby establishing broad general principles upon which we would have common views when acting with regard to matters such as we are considering now.
I want to ask the President this question—the League of Nations, even though constituted as it is, is going to be inevitably more or less coloured in its outlook by one group of nations or another. The world, now faced with a nightmare of tariff reform and economic nationalism, is beginning to realise that one of the most potent sources of international discord is the strangulation of international trade. You have the Oslo group of nations; You have the de marche of Mr. Cordell Hull, and you have the British Commonwealth of Nations all flushed with the idea of devising a plan whereby the channels of international trade can be freed. On the other hand, you have the States which believe in economic self-sufficiency, Italy, Germany, and, in fact, all the dictatorial war-like States. I am now assuming that we are going to play our part in world affairs. In that conflict on which side are we going to be? There is no doubt in my own mind nor in the minds of my colleagues on which side we think this State should be. We believe we can co-operate with the Oslo group or with the Cordell Hull group.
It is not so clear where the Fianna Fáil administration stands. Are we going to range ourselves in world affairs on the side of those countries who believe in the fata morgana of economic self-sufficiency? Because if we are, we are going to range ourselves on the side of war. A league of nations which does not take cognisance of the fact that there can be no effective international co-operation without international trade is simply sticking its head in the sand. To judge from the internal policy of our Government, it would appear that they share the view of Herr Hitler  and Signor Mussolini that no State is safe unless it is a self-contained economic unit. I take the view very strongly that no State is safe if it does constitute itself a self-sufficient economic unit. Because the only way such States can get on is behind an ever-rising tariff wall. The world must range itself into these two parties, those who will believe in international trade and those who believe in creating national self-sufficiency. Those behind the tariff wall must make up their minds to the fact that when you have built the wall the only means of sustaining it is to buttress it up with bayonets and to buttress it up with dead bodies. That is an absolute certainty, and the more often that fact is repeated in public the better, in my opinion, it is for the world.
The President may reply that really our intervention in international trade can make very little difference, because the attitude we take up in economic affairs is going to affect practically no country but Great Britain. There I do not agree with him at all. I believe we can make ourselves felt, and I believe that through the Commonwealth of Nations, if we would only use our position in it, we can carry more weight at Geneva or in any international centre than any other small nation in the world. At present we are deliberately paralysing ourselves. I am anxious that our Government, whether President de Valera or somebody else presides over it, should play their part. I believe they can do it (1) by rebuilding the League of Nations and (2) by helping to remove the standing menace to international peace of economic nationalism.
I believe it would be useful if the President would now say on what side we may expect to find this country in the conflict between the States that stand for economic self-sufficiency and those that stand against it, and I think It would be useful if the President would now say whether the Administration for which he is responsible held itself ready to co-operate in any discussions the purposes of which were to remove economic obstacles from the way of international co-operation,  which is vital to the true rebuilding of the League of Nations.
Those are a few points to which I attach very considerable importance, but before I sit down I should like to say that I can see the real League of Nations emerging as a completely new departure. One of the great arguments of the economic self-sufficiency man is to say that you cannot allow the Japanese, because they are taken as the prototype of the low standard of living, to dump their products in your country, or else the standard of living of your people will be forced down to the level of the Japanese. I believe that out of that dilemma the new League can be born, because if we could get a group of nations that would de liberately set out to clear up the channels of international trade it would mean a general lowering of tariffs, and it would mean a much larger interchange of goods than has obtained so far. But, if that were to be done effectively, each nation would rightly insist on maintaining a certain standard of living below which it was not prepared to allow its people to sink.
To do that, the only way I can see practically possible is something on the Solverein principle. If you can get a group of States to say: “So far as labour conditions are concerned, we are prepared to delegate to the International Labour Office power to operate within our jurisdiction; we will ask the International Labour Office to fix conditions of labour in certain groups of industry for the Solverein, to which we are prepared to subscribe; we will take steps to enforce those conditions; we will give facilities to the International Labour Office to inspect our methods of enforcement, and similar enforcement and similar inspection will operate in every other State member of the Solverein,”you could then get something approximating to a true equality of conditions of employment, conditions which would remove one of the stock excuses for tariff subsidies, export bounties and the like.
Secondly, you would have to say: “This Solverein, once established, is open for admission to any other State  which conforms to certain conditions which have been established by the International Labour Office.” Given these conditions, we are prepared to trade with them, and if they trade with us on the terms common to all States members of the Solverein, I believe out of that would emerge a group enjoying such obvious advantages that the scope for further co-operation in a wider field would very early manifest itself and that the immense advantage that the nations of that Solverein would enjoy would attract, if not the Governments of other countries, then the peoples of other countries very rapidly, and if you had crazy Governments still desiring to torture their people for false causes, without any propaganda at all the picture of peace and developing prosperity and the rising standard of living that that Solverein would present to oppressed and exploited people would induce those peoples to agitate in the spirit of the nineteenth century for a restoration of liberty, reason and decency within their own jurisdiction.
Along those lines I believe there might emerge something which would be even a more effective League of Nations than we can hope to build on the shaky foundations that exist in Geneva. However, whatever path we travel in this matter, almost everyone in this House has a common ideal, and that is to get back to some institution which would defend and protect the rule of international law. The sooner all of us get down to determine what Ireland's contribution to that pilgrimage is going to be, the better, and the more effectively we can make the voice of Ireland heard in the councils of the nations of the world.
The President The President
The President: Deputy Dockrell asked me a question with regard to the motor car agreement. I am informed that the arrangement made does not run counter to any arrangement made with the various automobile associations; that, in fact, we have been urged by these associations to regard it as the type of agreement which we should make with continental countries. It is a better arrangement than any previously in force, because it has resulted in the complete abolition between  this country and Great Britain of motorists' fiscal permits, which were formerly demanded at the respective ports of the two countries. If the information I have been able to get now is not satisfactory. I will be very glad to answer more specifically in a Parliamentary question, if the Deputy wishes.
Mr. Dockrell Mr. Dockrell
Mr. Dockrell: Will that apply to Northern Ireland also?
The President The President
The President: One would expect so. I am informed that is the position. With regard to the wide question, I am afraid that we will have to make up our minds to this, that we are very far yet from the position in which the nations will voluntarily submit themselves to the rule of law. I am afraid we are far away from that, and the history of mankind in various nations seems to indicate that it is going to be very slow indeed in coming, because the unity of countries, as we know them to-day, has been largely got by one particular group securing domination by force, and then being able to impose its will on those who otherwise would not voluntarily have submitted to the rule. It is a sad thing, but I am afraid it is the position. Now, I have to confess that I was one of those for a number of years who thought in the direction of strengthening the League: of getting the League to take powers which would be sufficient to enforce obedience to the Covenant on those who might be inclined to disregard their bond. I thought it a pity that the famous Protocol, for instance, had not gone through, but later experience has convinced me that it would be unwise to try to work in that direction because the temptation would always lie for the strong Power to resist. The small nations which would be involved in carrying out such sanctions were likely to be crushed by their immediate neighbours who were recalcitrant and against whom sanctions were going to be imposed. In other words, there was going to be a very unequal burden on the various States, and in a policy of that sort it was the weaker States that were going to get the worst of it.
I am sorry to say that is the conclusion I have been forced to by the  facts of the situation, as I saw them, when they emerged very clearly a few years ago. Consequently, I have turned rather in the other direction, and come to the conclusion that the best hope for the future of the League is to try to get in, even on the most tenuous terms, a number of the States in Europe. If we could get them in to co-operate, even on slender bonds, it would be very much better than that there should be one group which accepts, as if it were a complete League in itself, responsibilities of a very stringent type, whilst there are other States outside the group. As Deputy Professor O'Sullivan has indicated, it is quite obvious that if that situation arises you are going to have a group which is associated narrowly and tightly within the League on one side as opposed to the other States on the other side. The result is that if these outside States are powerful and strong and combine together, you are going to have the type of situation which Deputy O'Sullivan, I understood, was deploring and suggested that we should do everything in our power to avoid. That was why, when this matter of the League was before us on a former occasion I indicated that the direction in which I would like to see the League progress was to get agreement on those things, and to try to make them universal, on which we were not going to have the likelihood of conflict: things of such a character that the States should be likely voluntarily to accept the rule and not to stand up against us in any one instance. If I remember, the Opposition said if that were the type of League of Nations I had in mind, it would not be worth being a member of it.
Mr. MacDermot Mr. MacDermot
Mr. MacDermot: What sort of thing had the President in mind?
The President The President
The President: “Tenuous” was the word I used, and I am afraid it would be better for me at the present moment to leave it equally tenuous, for the simple reason that the implementing of the idea that I had in mind, when one comes down to it, is going to be difficult, but we will play our part in it, I hope. Harking back  to the previous discussion, I indicated perhaps a little bit more than I am doing now—the direction in which my mind is running. I remember I was challenged by the Opposition and told that if that was the type of League of Nations that we were going to have it would be better to have no League at all. I disagree. I think that the first thing that we have got to do is to try to get all the important States in Europe into a group, meeting together, associating together even for relatively trifling purposes to start with. I think it is very much better that we should have what I may call a certain degree of universality for relatively trifling objectives than that we should hold out the big objective, namely, that of preventing war.
Mr. MacDermot Mr. MacDermot
Mr. MacDermot: I do not believe that you can find one objective, however trifling, on which you can get all the nations together.
The President The President
The President: Perhaps. If that is the situation, that there is nothing on which you can get the nations to come in and agree upon, then it is vain to be talking about a League of Nations, because we have not got it. You have got alliances. You can have partial groups co-operating for certain purposes, and by their co-operation very often endangering the peace because they would be regarded as a block opposed to the block that are outside it. Those who are outside will inevitably come together and form themselves into another block. Now, if it should happen that Deputy MacDermot is right, and that even on simple matters we cannot get the nations to come in, then I say we are in a desperate condition, and there is no use in talking about a League of Nations because we will not have got any. But if we are to get a League of Nations. I think the best thing to do is to work in the direction in which we are operating of trying to get them in even on tenuous terms. There is not much hope, perhaps, in getting nations together even for simple objectives, but if that is so it is vain to ask them to come together for the supreme objective—that is, to prevent war. If, by meeting, we could get rid, bit by bit,  by contacts, of the various disputes and difficulties which divide States, that would be a useful purpose. It is a purpose which the League of Nations that I have in mind would try to effect. The idea that we cannot at the present time build up a League of Nations which would have sufficient authority to prevent war by coming in and saying: “Very well, there is a dispute between nation A and nation B: that dispute must be submitted to arbitration or to a judicial decision, and if it is not then we are going to enforce a settlement. At any rate the nation that submits to it will be assisted by us against the nation that will not accept the settlement of that kind,” is, I think, gone for the present. Perhaps it may be for several generations. There is no use, therefore, in looking for something which we know to be hopeless.
Deputy Dillon has suggested that there is another type of division amongst States, namely, those that will accept the policy generally of what we may call free trade, and those who will insist on seeing that they are reasonably self-sufficient. I can only say for ourselves that I cannot see this Government accepting a policy which would undo the work that the Government has been doing in trying to build up industries here in order to give reasonable self-sufficiency. If any policy were suggested which would mean the undoing of that work, we could not accept it. We have had free trade operating in this country over a number of years and we saw the result of it. It was bringing our country into the position in which we were becoming, largely, a ranch for supplying cattle and food to another country which, in return, was giving us manufactured goods. That is a policy to which I, certainly, can see no possibility of our agreeing as a general solution. That is the very situation that we have been struggling to get out of.
Now, there is, in the protection of our own industries here, no aggressive nationalism, about which some people have been talking. There is nothing aggressive about that. It is simply the natural desire, first of all, to give  employment to our people who would otherwise be idle or be compelled to follow where work was to be found, or otherwise to give us the necessary strength to subsist if there were a situation created here in which the supplies which are necessary for us could not be got, as a result of a war or some other catastrophe of that sort from outside. Reasonable self-sufficiency is a natural thing, and it is a thing to be aimed at, and I think that the world, as a whole, would be better for that policy. I resent any suggestion that a policy of that sort can be classed as aggressive nationalism. In answer to Deputy Dillon, I would say quite frankly that, if that were the alternative that were offered to us— that we should go back to the old position and discontinue our present policy of building up reasonable self-sufficiency here—there could be but one answer from this side of the House, and I think it would be the answer that would be given by the majority of our people also.
I do not think there is anything to be gained by going further afield, Sir. I have indicated broadly my hopes. We certainly would like to see the League of Nations re-founded and re-built, and we would do everything in our power to get it re-built on the only foundation which we think is possible at the present time. I cannot say whether that will be done or not. If it were not found possible to re-build it on such a foundation as I have indicated, our attitude towards the League would have to change and we would have to say that the obligations inherent in the situation were obligations which, in the interests of our people, we could not undertake.
Mr. MacDermot Mr. MacDermot
Mr. MacDermot: Am I to take it, Sir, that the Minister was called on to conclude?
An Ceann Comhairle Frank Fahy
An Ceann Comhairle: Yes.
Mr. MacDermot Mr. MacDermot
Mr. MacDermot: Well, then, of course it would not be in order for me to speak on the subject, but perhaps I might be allowed to ask a question?
An Ceann Comhairle Frank Fahy
An Ceann Comhairle: Yes, the Deputy may ask a question.
Mr. MacDermot Mr. MacDermot
Mr. MacDermot: There is a provision  in the Draft Constitution which I very warmly welcome, and I think it is remarkable that it has attracted absolutely no attention so far, or at least there has not been a word about it, so far as I have seen, in the newspapers. I refer to the provision which declares our adoption of the principle of third-party arbitration in international disputes. I should like to ask the President whether he would not think it worth while to work for as wide an acceptance of that principle among other countries as can be obtained, because, League of Nations or no League of Nations, I suggest that it is far more worth while to secure the acceptance, generally, of a principle like that, than to bring together a whole lot of representatives of countries, with absolutely conflicting ideas and conflicting notions of international morality, in order to do nothing whatever except to quarrel.
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: Perhaps the President will tell the Deputy that we signed the Optional Clause in 1929.
Vote put and agreed to.
An Ceann Comhairle Frank Fahy
An Ceann Comhairle: When will the Votes be reported?
Mr. MacEntee Mr. MacEntee
Mr. MacEntee: Probably this day week.
An Ceann Comhairle Frank Fahy
An Ceann Comhairle: This day week. Very good.
Dáil Éireann 67 Committee on Finance. Vote 68—League of Nations.