Born and living in Belfast, NI. Worked for UN/International Labour Organization (ILO – see my current project) for 22+years and travelled extensively. Also worked with Irish Aid and interacted with many Department of Foreign Affairs officials. Retired in 2010, but continued with occasional overseas assignments. Finally stopped working in May 2018 (turned 70) and have become more engaged in writing and volunteering. I have prior experience of technical publications, but not creative ones. Member of Ballynafeigh Creative Writers’ Circle, and long time ago Sandymount Writers Group. I studied at UCD (B.Comm) and Queen’s University Belfast (MBA).
I am working on my first (creative) book based on the lives of and relationship between Sean Lester, Secretary General of the League of Nations 1940-1947 and Edward Phelan, Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) 1941-1948. They were very active in promoting the international profile of the newly created Irish Free State, and through their respective organizations played major roles in international affairs, including during World War II.
Sean Lester (born 1888) came from Co. Antrim and a Methodist background. He joined the Gaelic League and Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), became a journalist and worked in the North and West of Ireland as well as in Dublin with various papers. He joined the Communications Dept. of the new Irish Free State. In 1929 he transferred to Geneva as Ireland’s representative to the League of Nations, where he met Edward Phelan. Sean was appointed as the League’s High Commissioner to Danzig (1934-37), and he returned to Geneva as the League’s Deputy Secretary General.
Lester became acting Secretary General of the League in 1940 upon the departure of the Frenchman, Joseph Avenol, who had demonstrated unacceptable support for Hitler, and he was confirmed as Secretary General in 1946, retroactive to 1940.
During that period the United States, as part of its chosen international isolationist approach, did not take up its seat at the League, and this same approach is prevalent in US policies today.
Edward Phelan was born in Tramore, County Waterford (1888), moved with his sea-faring family to Liverpool where he graduated with MSc. He joined the newly created Ministry of Labour (UK) as civil servant, and was part of the British Empire delegation to the Paris Peace Conference culminating in the Treaty of Versailles (1919). He was instrumental in the creation of the International Labour Organization (ILO), spent the remainder of his entire working career with ILO (1919-1948), and was appointed as (acting) Director/Director-General from 1941 until his retirement.
The ILO celebrates its centenary in 2019.
Sean Lester and Edward Phelan interacted a lot for more than 20 years and, in addition to their extensive journals and memoirs, I have been able to access numerous items of personal communication between them.
Lester, Phelan and their compatriots were eager to situate the new Ireland among the European nations and allied to “smaller states” rather than being over-dependent on the UK and the Commonwealth, and this sentiment persists in relation to Ireland’s continuing engagement with the EU during the Brexit process.
These were two fascinating Irishmen who contributed to Ireland “punching above its weight” in international circles in the inter-war years.
My book is planned as a human interest story, not academic or pure history, of 100k words with up to 40 photos. At present I have approximately 50k based around 10 chapter headings. I am blessed by having access to many supportive key informants and numerous archives in Dublin and Geneva.
In the pipeline.