Edward Phelan and the ILO: Life and views of an international social actor

This book is a remarkable portrait of Edward J. Phelan (1888-1967), a man who dedicated his life to social justice and whose views and actions guided the work of the ILO for decades.


This book is a remarkable portrait of Edward J. Phelan (1888-1967), a man who dedicated his life to social justice and whose views and actions guided the work of the ILO for decades. One of a small group of people who mapped out the design of the ILO in the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and one of the principal authors of the ILO Constitution, Phelan became the ILO's fourth Director-General in 1941 until his retirement in 1948.

Phelan's personal memoirs, long unpublished, are brought together in one volume along with a biographical essay by labour historian Emmet O'Connor, texts by Brian Cowen TD, Seán Lemass TD and former ILO Director-General Wilfred Jenks, and a selection of Phelan's lesser known writings on the ILO's later development, offering a unique perspective on key episodes in the history of the ILO.