Ireland and the Corfu Crisis, 1923

Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2017), Letters, Uncategorized, Volume 25

Sir,—Mark Phelan (HI 25.1, Jan./Feb. 2017) appears not to have consulted James Barros’s The Corfu Incident of 1923: Mussolini and the League of Nations (1965). Had he done so, he would have been encouraged to mention an important factor absent from his article—that the Treaty of London of 1864 (to which Britain, France, Russia, Prussia and Austro-Hungary were parties) recognised the ‘perpetual neutrality’ of Corfu and its subsidiary, Paxos. This neutrality had been tested and validated four times, including during the Balkan Wars of 1912–13, but was unilaterally set aside by Mussolini’s invasion and, although it remained in force in 1923, was disregarded by the League in its deliberations. While Mark Phelan is of course correct in pointing to the importance of the Irish view on the status of smaller nations and of the ineffectiveness of the League, the fact that this island, at the date of its ingestion (or enosis) with the other ‘United States of the Ionian Islands’ into the fledgling state of Greece, was guaranteed its neutrality by the superpowers of the day is surely a cardinal point in diplomatic and geopolitical history. Neutrality would later be more devastatingly and ostentatiously set aside by Mussolini and Hitler.—Yours etc.,

RICHARD PINE
Durrell Library of Corfu

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