Speech on Ireland's Admission to the League of Nations

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Speech on Ireland's Admission to the League of Nations

10 September 1923

William T. Cosgrave

Britain sought to ensure that all foreign relations between the dominions (such as the Irish Free State) and countries outside the Commonwealth would be conducted through the British Foreign Office. The decision to join the League of Nations less than a year after the establishment of the Irish Free State was an indication that the Irish government was determined to pursue an independent foreign policy.

SEE ALSO Cosgrave, W. T.; Politics: Independent Ireland since 1922

On behalf of Ireland, one of the oldest and yet one of the youngest nations, and speaking for the Irish government and the Irish delegation, I thank this assembly of the League of Nations for the unanimous courtesy and readiness with which our application to be admitted to membership of the League has been received and approved.

Ireland, in ancient times linked by bonds of culture and of friendly intercourse with every nation to which the ambit of travel could carry her far-venturing missionaries and men of learning has today formally, yet none the less practically, entered into a new bond of union with her sister nations, great and small, who are represented in this magnificent world-concourse.

With all the nations whose spokesmen form this assembly, Ireland joins today in a solemn covenant to exercise the powers of her sovereign status in promoting the peace, security and happiness, the economic, cultural, and moral well-being of the human race.

Lofty ideals have inspired the best minds who have faith in the power of good will and of joint international endeavour to operate for good through this Council of the Nations. It is our earnest desire to co-operate with our fellow-members in every effort calculated to give effect to those ideals—to mitigate, and whenever possible, to avert the ancient evils of warfare and oppression; to encourage wholesome and to discourage unwholesome relations between nation and nation; to enable even the weakest of nations to live their own lives and make their own proper contribution to the good of all, free even from the shadow and the fear of external violence, vicious penetration, or injurious pressure of any kind.

In the actual proceedings which we have witnessed, we have seen a keen appreciated of the fact that nations are interdependent in matters of economic and intellectual development. We hope that the means of closer intercourse provided or initiated through the League of Nations will be helpful to the economic and educational progress for which Ireland is looking forward and always striving.

We willingly testify that the advocacy of these ideals has strongly attracted us towards the League of Nations, and if as yet the means provided have not always proved fully effective to secure their worthy ends, we are mindful of our national proverb, "Bíonn gach tosnú lag" ("every beginning is weak"), and we trust that in time to come, adequate means and faithful use of them will justify our common hopes. Our history and the instinct of our hearts forbid us to think that temporary or even recurrent failures can deprive a just and steadfast purpose of the assurance of success.

Ireland counts on having no enemy and on harbouring no enmity in the time to come. She counts also on bringing forth fruits worthy of liberty. Si tollis libertatem, tollis dignitatem. These are the words of a famous Irishman of the sixth and seventh century. Inscribed on his tomb at Bobbio in Italy, they met our eyes when, a few days ago, a happy conjuncture enabled the members of this Irish delegation to assist at the celebration of the thirteenth centenary of Saint Columbanus, pioneer of Ireland's moral and intellectual mission among the nations of Western Europe.

We shall return to our own country to take part with our own patriotic people in the enormous work of national construction and consolidation. The kind welcome, the cordial words of understanding, that have greeted us here on the part of every nation whose representatives we have met, will not be forgotten. They will cheer and sustain us in that work, and they will remind us, too, that as the life of a man is bettered and fructified beyond measure in the harmonious society of men, so must the life of nations reach a much fuller liberty and a much fuller dignity in the harmonious society of nations.

Reprinted in Documents on Irish Foreign Policy, vol. 2, 1923–1926, edited by Ronan Fanning, Michael Kennedy, Dermot Keogh, and Eunan O'Halpin (2000), pp. 156–157.

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Speech on Ireland's Admission to the League of Nations

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Speech on Ireland's Admission to the League of Nations