The Irish Influence: Building the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization (Crua/H/Back)

Gerry Finnegan


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1 review for The Irish Influence: Building the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization (Crua/H/Back)

  1. John Fox

    During the Second World War, the two most important international organizations were both led by Irishmen. The early history of the International Labour Organization (ILO) is inseparable from the career of Edward Phelan, who was a native of the village of Cheekpoint in County Waterford, south-east Ireland. Born in the same year, 1888, Seán Lester first lived at Woodburn, near Carrickfergus in County Antrim, and would rise through a series of unpredictable events to lead the troubled League of Nations during the last six years of its existence.
    Finnegan tells us that, at the Peace Conference held at Versailles in 1919 set up the International Labour Organization (ILO), with Edward Phelan playing a key role in establishing its terms of reference. He was offered the post as Chief of its Diplomatic Division in Geneva. Under the impetus of the American President Woodrow Wilson, the Versailles Conference also set up the League of Nations in Geneva. Unfortunately, the United States of America would never join the League of Nations, since the Congress refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. This would prove to be a fatal blow for the League.
    Gerry Finnegan takes us through the litany of catastrophic failings that would befall the League of Nations and lead to its total eclipse during the 1930s. It was clear to everybody that another war was inevitable and, by the end of the decade, the League played no further part in international politics. A serious crisis within the League ended with Seán Lester taking over as acting Secretary-General in September 1940.
    When compared to other studies about Lester, Phelan, the League of Nations and the ILO, Gerry Finnegan’s book adopts a resolutely Irish approach. However, thanks to his dedicated research, it contains valuable explanations of what took place at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 and, particularly, what happened to the ILO and the League of Nations after the Second World War—one of which would survive and the other perish.

    John Fox

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