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November 20, 1958

Letter from Frederick H. Boland to Con Cremin (Dublin) (Private and Confidential), New York

This document was made possible with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)

[stamp] 26 NOV 1958



20th November, 1958.


Private and Confidential


Dear Con,

I have been looking for a chance of writing you a personal letter about things here, but it hasn't been easy to get one. When the Minister was here, I never had a spare moment. He likes to be accompanied all the time and, of course, it is only proper that he should be. Since nis departure, the Fourth Committee has got into the stage of night and Saturday meetings, so that I am even short of time for the reading of essential documents. In fact, the whole delegation is kept working very hard at the moment.

So far, however, the Assembly has been rather quieter and less eventful than its two immediate predecessors. The Cyprus and Algerian debates have yet to come on and they will be heated; but so much has already been said on both subjects in previous years that neither can inspire the excitement oi novelty. Our line on both questions is clear. We can hardly add much to what we have already said on them, so that whether we intervene in the discussions about them at all or not will depend largely on the run of the debates ana the kind of resolutions submitted.

As you know, the China vote evoked relatively  little adverse reaction compared with last year and the Catholic press has ceased to refer to it. The publication by the Catholic news last week or the  photograph showing the T. shaking hands with Cardinal Spellman at Lourdes is interesting in the context  of the latter's attitude after the vote last year. Apart from China, the "nuclear club" proposal absorbed the Minister’s energies to the virtual exclusion of everything else. I think that in the beginning he was inclined to think that the idea had more support than it actually had. He is inclined to take references made in goodwill and politeness as amounting to commitments. Even when it became clear, however, that much as they approved as a general principle, the western powers were resolutely opposed to anything which would prevent the US from giving nuclear weapons to her NATO and other partners, he was determined to push this proposal to a vote. He only changed his mind at the very last minute and it was a good thing he did so. There would have been a very heavy adverse vote, including, I should think, all the members of the western camp. As it was, no harm whatever was done. The proposal enabled him to get onto familiar personal terms with most of the leading delegates; many people admired the persistence with which he pursued the idea and there was widespread appreciation of his action in not pushing his resolution to a vote and thereby sparing people the embarrassment of having to vote against it.

I think it was his intention when he came out to highlight the lend-spend idea at this session. If he didn’t do so it was probably because a number of people from the Secretariat and the U.S. delegation with whom he discussed the matter pointed out that it was really a question for the IBRD and IMF meeting in New Delhi rather than for the U.N. Assembly.

Relations with the U.S. delegation were much better this time than last year. The Minister got on well with Dulles and established easy personal relations with Cabot Lodge and other U.S. delegates. His firm support of the 17-power disarmament resolution was appreciated. Lodge told me the other night that the better he got to know the Minister, the better he liked him.

The chairmanship of the Fourth Committee is really a whole-time job; there is a good deal more to it than simply presiding a t the public meetings; but if we are to amount to anything in the U.N. we must be prepared to take on this kind of responsibility from time to time and there is a definite role for us to play in the Fourth Committee which is likely to remain one of the most active and important organs of the Assembly for some years ahead. However, I am able to keen constantly in touch with the delegation; we have frequent informal consultations and a formal meeting whenever anyone requires an important decision or instruction.

Incidentally, I couldn't quite make out what the trouble was about Eamon Kennedy's speech on the report of the Trusteeship Council. I understood (I didn't see the actual cuttings) that there was some mystification about his reference to the early troubles of the new Irish state, although I should have thought that that was clear enough to anyone who remembers those times. Judging from the statement issued by the Department, however, the trouble would seem to have been Eamon’s suggestion that former dependent countries should not be cut adrift and left to fend for themselves before they were strong enough to bear the responsibilities or freedom - although that, too, is virtually a cliche here, even among the Afro-Asian delegations. What precisely was the issue involved? Eamon himself was a bit upset by the publicity, including the suggestion that he had “embarrassed the government". I don't see myself why anything in the speech, which, of course, I saw and passed beforehand, should have done so. The speech was very well received, even among the Afro-Asians.

I intend to write to you when the session is over and I have somewhat more time about the organisation of the annual delegation. It is not satisfactory. It’s main weakness is that it is far too light on the sectorial side. In the past when we went to big conferences like Ottawa, the League of Nations, etc., we had always an official secretary of the delegation, whose task it was to look after all the administrative and executive aspects of the work of the delegation, as well as an archivist (Miss Murphy) and one or two typists. We are much less well-equipped now. The only experienced shorthand typist we have here looks after the delegation office in the Beekman Tower but she is so busy with documentation, answering the telephone, replying to invitations, typing speeches, etc. that she can’t afford to leave the place for a moment with the result that none of us can dictate reports without leaving the U.N. building and going to the Beekman Tower – something for which it is very difficult to make time considering that the committees sit continuously from 10.30 to 6 with merely a short break for lunch which we usually use for consultations among ourselves or any contacts with other delegations we may wish to make. At the 11th session, I was able to report home almost every day because Miss Mooney was available in the U.N. building every evening to take anything I had to give her. Nowadays, reporting is extremely difficult because i have usually to be on the job at 9.30 for the bureau meeting before the formal meeting of the Committee opens and Miss Sloan is gone when the Committee rises at 6 or 6.15.

Similarly as regards the delegation secretary. Nominally Bob McDonagh is tje secretary of the delegation; but he is also acting as an alternate to Coner on the 1st amd Special Committees and was in virtually constant personal attendance on the Minister when he was here. The result is that practical details tend to get overlooked. It is not Bob's fault. He has just more than he can manage to do. That is how you failed to be informed of the date of the Minister's return. Apparently, the Minister made up his mind suddenly and the booking and other arrangements for his departure were made through the office in the Beekman Tower. I only became aware of his intention when Bob asked me rather late on the Tuesday evening weather I would be free to attend a farewell party on the following evening prior to the Minister’s departure on Thursday. The Minister had omitted to tell me of his intention himself – presuming, I suppose, that I already knew of it. Actually, not only was no notification sent to you but Jack Conway, I understand, only heard of the Minister’s departure on the Thursday morning. It is indicative of the unsatisfactory state of our organisation on the executive and secretarial side. We should have (as every other delegation has) a shorthand typist in constant attendance in the U.N. building and we need an official, free of all other duties, to act as secretary 0f the delegation and to private secretary the M. while he is here.

I t is now very likely that there will be a special session of the Assembly in February to decide on the conditions governing the proposed plebiscites in French and British Cameroons. If there is a special session, however, the question of Chinese representation is pretty certain, of course, to be raised and there is a bare possibility that the question of Berlin may be raised at it also. For the moment, that is a very speculative possibility, however. Unless Berlin is to come up, the session is likely to be technical rather than politically important and Foreign Ministers are not likely to come; I will keep you posted, however.

I didn't mention to Conor that note you sent me about his use of the provision for official entertainment at the emergency special session in August. But I think you have got to do so; if I did he might legitimately tell me that it was really none of my business. It seems completely extraordinary to me that, without saying a word to you, he should use for entertainment by himself alone the entire provision for entertainment by yourself, the Minister and himself. I really don't think you can let the thing pass without notice. Some of the charges are on the high side e.g. thirty dollars is a good deal l to pay for lunch for three and fifty five for a dinner for four; but charges here vary greatly and the figures given are no more than one would pay in a good second-class restaurant here. A dinner for four in a first-class restaurant here normally costs about eighty dollars. What I can't understand is what Coner thinks would have happened if you and the Minister had each spent a third of the provision on official entertainment yourselves?

Judy enjoyed her stay in Dublin and is glad to have seen Patsy and you again. She says you are over-working and need a rest. I saw John Hearne at Laurel Park; he seemed in excellent form. In spit of the interception off King Hussein's plane, Hammarskjold is not very worried about the Mid-East; apparently he reckons that his "pull" with Nasser and Fawzi is still strong enough to cope with any untoward developments. No one here seems very sure what to make of Russia’s new move in connection with Berlin and no one is optimistic about the outcome of the technical disarmament discussions. The new 81-member Disarmament Commission must meet some time early in the New Year but it is expected to confine itself to the setting-up of working committees the composition of which has yet to be negotiated. That is about all the news for the moment. We are all hoping that the Assembly will conclude as decided on the 13th December and the general anticipation is that it will. The delegation are talking of travelling home on the "Saxonia" leaving on the 13th.


Yours sincerely,


[Frederick Boland]


The report of Ireland’s permanent representative to the United Nations to his superior, the secretary of the Department of External Affairs, delivers his account of Aiken’s first (failed) attempt to generate support for a resolution in the Thirteenth UN Session. Recognizing the breadth and depth of opposition, he withdrew his draft resolution and instead requested a simple roll call vote in favor of the second paragraph on 31 October – a modest statement acknowledging that an expansion in the number of nuclear weapons states would be harmful to peace and increase obstacles to disarmament. The measure passed with 37 votes and no opposition, although 44 abstentions were recorded. The Soviet bloc supported the maneuver, while Western-aligned countries abstained.  

Document Information


National Archives of Ireland, Department of Foreign Affairs/10/4/21, published in "Documents on Irish Foreign Policy," Volume XI, Document No. 162. Contributed by Mervyn O'Driscoll.


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Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY) and University of Southampton