Book presentation

The Irish Influence: Building the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization

Discover the impact of Seán Lester and Edward Phelan, who played pivotal roles in the League of Nations and ILO respectively. Former ILO staff Gerry Finnegan tells the story of two Irish diplomats who shaped global diplomacy and social justice forever.

Gerry Finnegan’s knowledgeable and entertaining book tells the life story of two Irishmen, who shaped the multilateral system in Geneva. Seán Lester was the representative of Ireland in the League of Nations and its last Secretary -General (1940-1946). Edward Phelan, the “first international civil servant”, led the ILO as its fourth Director-General from 1941 to 1948. In the 1930s, they became friends in Geneva, the heart of international diplomacy at the time. They not only contributed through their respective organizations to peace building and social justice, but also promoted the cause of the young Irish nation in the international arena. The richly illustrated book with prefaces by the President of Ireland and the former ILO Director-General Guy Ryder is based on extensive archival research. It skillfully weaves together biography, national and international history.

▶ Introduction: Dorothea Hoehtker (ILO research)
▶ Presentation: Gerry Finnegan (Former ILO official)
▶ Comments and questions: Kari Tapiola (Former Deputy Director-General)
▶ Vignettes from the ILO archives: Remo Becci (Head of the ILO archives)

The author, Gerry Finnegan is a native of Belfast in the north of Ireland. His career with the ILO began in 1988 when he managed projects in Zambia and later in Guyana. From 1994-2000 Gerry joined the South Asia and later East Asia multidisciplinary teams, before transferring to Geneva to lead the ILO's Women's Entrepreneurship Development activities. He returned to Zambia as Director of the Lusaka Office for Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia until his retirement in 2010.