Sean Lester


Sean Lester (1888–1959) was an Irish journalist and government official who held important positions in the League of Nations. A Protestant who was educated at the Methodist College in Belfast, he nonetheless supported Irish independence and was a member of Sinn Fein. Following the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, he joined the country’s foreign ministry and in 1929 became Ireland’s representative to the League of Nations. He chaired committees attempting to resolve territorial disputes between Peru and Colombia and between Bolivia and Paraguay, and he was involved in efforts by the League to end the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. In 1933 he joined the League as an international civil servant, becoming in January 1934 the high commissioner for the free city of Danzig (present-day Gdańsk, Poland), then under League administration. In 1939 he was named deputy secretary-general of the League. With the resignation of Secretary-General Joseph Avenol, in September 1940 Lester became acting secretary-general and in that capacity worked with a skeleton staff to keep the organization in operation throughout World War II. In April 1946 he presided over the dissolution of the League and the transfer of its property to the new United Nations Organization. This photograph of Lester is from the archives of the League of Nations in Geneva. The archives were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2010.

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1 photograph ; 14.1 x 10.4 centimeters


  1. Michael J. Kennedy, “Lester, Sean (1888–1959),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: November 14, 2017