Centenary of League of Nations admittance to be marked with postage stamp

An Post will release a new national stamp tomorrow (Thursday) marking the centenary of Ireland’s admittance to the League of Nations.

2023 marks the centenary of Ireland joining the League of Nations giving the fledgling Irish Free State the opportunity to engage more extensively with other countries.

Born out of the horrors of the First World War, the League of Nations was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. The League was founded in January, 1920 by the Paris Peace Conference that formally ended the war. The creation of the League was an event of decisive importance in the history of international relations. The League was formally disbanded in 1946 and its powers and functions transferred to the United Nations.

The Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Micheál Martin, who is on a trip to the Middle East at present, said: “This new stamp is a timely reminder of Ireland’s history of active engagement in world affairs. It is important that we remember and celebrate the significance of Ireland taking our place among our fellow nations. This stamp commemorates Ireland’s ambition as a new state and marks our active engagement in world affairs ever since.”

The stamp design presents a symbolic representation of Ireland’s membership of the League, featuring the national colours of a selection of countries from both the founding members and those countries which joined prior to Ireland, and highlighting the green, white and orange of Ireland.

An accompanying First Day Cover envelope shows the then Irish Free State delegation to the League of Nations, September 1923, courtesy of National Archives of Ireland.

The stamp, produced by leading design house, Zero-G, is available at main post offices, Dublin’s GPO or online at irishstamps.ie.

The delegation featured on the FDC, standing (l-r): Michael MacWhite (Permanent Representative of Ireland to the League of Nations); Desmond FitzGerald (Minister for External Affairs); The Marquis MacSwiney of Mashonaglas (Substitute Delegate); Kevin O’Sheil (Assistant Legal Adviser); Ormond Grattan Esmond TD (Delegate); Diarmaid O’Hegarty (Cabinet Secretary) and Gearóid McGann (Secretary to the President of the Executive Council); Seated (l-r): Hugh Kennedy (Attorney General), William T Cosgrave (President of the Executive Council) and Eoin MacNeill (Minister for Education). Photo by National Archive

Archives Exhibition

The League of Nations was the first worldwide state-level political organisation, created in the aftermath of the First World War. Ireland joined the League on 10th September 1923, and did so to emphasise that it was a sovereign state and an autonomous actor in world affairs. League membership was an essential part of independent Ireland’s first steps on the international stage.

Marking the centenary of Ireland’s membership of the League of Nations, the National Archives, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Royal Irish Academy, has created an exhibition featuring records from its collections relating to Ireland’s membership of the League. The records, which have never been on public display before, feature official documents, photographs, recollections, letters and ephemera, and chart the exciting early adventures of the new State as it began to forge an international position for itself.

From its earliest years in the League of Nations, Ireland advocated a peaceful world order and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means. These were the key goals of the League and Ireland knew that, as a small state which lacked great military and economic power, membership of a group of like-minded states such that the young League of Nations offered, was its best chance of surviving, and thriving, on the world stage.

Included in the exhibition is a special feature on Harry Clarke’s Geneva Window, commissioned by the Cosgrave Government in 1929 as a gift from the Irish State for the new International Labour Organisation building in Geneva. The window consisted of vignettes from 19 Irish writers, but when it was completed in 1930, it was rejected by the Irish Government due to concerns about its content being perceived as being ‘immoral’. . . Clarke died before any changes could be made to the window which was eventually returned to his widow.

The exhibition, On an Equal Footing with All, Ireland at the League of Nations 1923-1946, will be presented at both the Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska and the Dublin Festival of History before travelling to the UN in Geneva and New York. A book has also been produced to mark this significant moment in the history of the Irish State and will be launched in New York in September during the UN High-Level Week followed by a Dublin Launch in October.

Micheál Martin continued: "Ireland’s membership of the League of Nations between 1923 and 1946 foreshadowed key approaches to foreign policy adopted by Ireland in the decades after the Second World War through membership of the Council of Europe, the United Nations and latterly the European Union. These were, like the League, established to promote international stability and co-operation recognising that, for small states such as Ireland to best safeguard their own interests, and those of others there was, and is, strength in numbers.”

Minister Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media said: “Even before gaining independence from Britain in 1922, the revolutionary Dáil Éireann government had aspired to Ireland joining the League. But it was not until an internationally recognised independent Irish state came into being on 6 December 1922 – the Irish Free State or Saorstát Éireann, as Ireland was then known – that Ireland had the legal and international capacity to join the League of Nations.

"It is therefore fitting as we come to the close of the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023, that we mark this historic event which represented and embodied the vision and ambitions of the emerging Free State, taking its place amongst the nations of the world.”

This exhibition is presented as part of the Government of Ireland’s Decade of Centenaries’ 2012-2023 National Programme. The exhibition is presented by the National Archives, Department of Foreign Affairs and the Royal Irish Academy.

Exhibition Dates

United Nations Building, Palais des Nations, 10 Geneva Dr 12533, Geneva

25th September – 6th October 2023

Ploughing Championships, Ratheniska, Co. Laois

19th – 21st September 2023

Dublin Festival of History, Print Works, Dublin Castle

29th September to 1st October 2023

United Nations Headquarters, 405, Lexington Avenue, New York, 10174

20th November to 1st December 2023

Admission free.