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Thread: Irish Neutrality 1939-45: How Much of It was a Sham?

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    Politics.ie Member owedtojoy's Avatar
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    Default Irish Neutrality 1939-45: How Much of It was a Sham?

    There is a pervasive myth that Irish neutrality 1939-1945 was scrupulously even-handed and principled.

    That was not true. One historian (Joe Lee) described De Valera's policy as "anglophile", adding that Dev did not have to endure from the Allies the same bullying endured by the Spanish, Swedes and Swiss from Hitler.

    Ronan Fanning in Independent Ireland takes from British Cabinet records a list of the way Ireland helped the Allied cause - a list that surprised even its most anti-Irish members.

    Below, They = The Irish (my own comments are in [])

    1. They agreed to the use of Lough Foyle for naval and air purposes.
    2. They agreed to an air corridor for aircraft taking off from Lough Erne.
    3. They agreed to the transmission of information regarding submarine activity.
    4. They broadcast reports by their Air Observer Corps of aircraft sighted over Southern Ireland.
    5. They arranged for the extinction of trade and business lighting in coastal towns [so as to confuse German aircraft].
    6. They continued to supply meteorological reports [one of which was vital for D-Day]
    7. They agreed to the use of two radio-direction-finding stations at Malin Head.
    8. They arranged for staff talks on the question of co-operation in the event of a possible German invasion of Southern Ireland.
    9. They interned all German fighting personnel reaching Southern Ireland. On the other hand, Allied personnel are returned.
    10. They have agreed to return German prisoners-of-war who escape from Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland.
    11. They continue to exchange security information.
    12. They agreed to establish a radar station in Southern Ireland.


    De Valera, by means of the strictest censorship ever in the history of the state, kept these facts from the Irish public, who were led to believe that our neutrality was a reality.

    Eunan O'Hailpin in Defending Ireland puts it differently. He says the British and Americans "extracted a considerable price for tolerating Irish neutrality, which was large paid in secret". But it was a price Dev was more than willing to pay so as to display a faux "even handedness" to his pro-German Republican adversaries. He feared these internal enemies more than he feared the Allies.

    So, was 1939-1945 Irish neutrality a "sham"? It was certainly more pragmatic than principled, but where you set the bar between sham and sincerity probably depends initially on your own bias and political affiliation.
    Last edited by owedtojoy; 17th March 2015 at 06:05 PM.
    "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence" - David Hume

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    Politics.ie Member McTell's Avatar
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    Yes, that all happened, but we kept very quiet about it.

    Probably why DeV stayed neutral from 1944, the definite aspergers moment on his part.
    McTell tCurrently, I am missing certain information. That has been requested and will be added as soon as it is available available availableavailable

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    Politics.ie Member owedtojoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McTell View Post
    Yes, that all happened, but we kept very quiet about it.

    Probably why DeV stayed neutral from 1944, the definite aspergers moment on his part.
    You have a point ... Irish neutrality made sense in 1940 and 1941. Increasing the British defense perimeter by 50% could have made no sense. The British could barely defend themselves.

    Allied aircraft and ships patrolling from Northern Ireland, plus the air corridors we gave the British meant they did not need a port in the South for the Battle of the Atlantic, which was the "front" we could influence the most.

    After 1943, the case for neutrality weakens because clearly an Allied victory was in Ireland's interests (and so it proved). However, Dev decided that all means short of war was the easier way to defeat Republican subversion.
    "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence" - David Hume

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    Politics.ie Member ruserious's Avatar
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    I don't mean to sound ignorant, but hasn't all this been discussed many times before with common agreement?
    Boycott the "Irish" Sun rag.

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    From what we know now Hitler never had the capability to launch an invasion of Britain.
    In 1940 it would have taken years to build up a surface fleet to match the British especially after the Germans lost so many vessels in the invasion of Norway.
    The Germans never could conceived of building thousands and thousands of landing craft and the prefabricated harbors that were used by the Allies on D-Day.
    British and American production of aircraft outstripped German production early in the war.
    Hitler saw the British Empire as a natural ally rather than an enemy and his primary focus since the 1920s was an apocalyptic military confrontation with Soviet Russia.
    German U-boats could not stop the convoys bringing men, weapons and supplies to Britain and the Germans did not have the capability to invade the American East Coast.
    It is difficult to see how the Nazis could have implemented Plan Green - the proposed invasion of Ireland - with any hope of success if they couldn't defeat Britain.

    After 1943-1944 when it was clear that Germany had lost the war and defeat was only a matter of time, Ireland should have declared war on Germany as most of the world had already done so. At that stage Ireland's involvement would have been minimal. We had no air force or navy of any significance and our troops had no experience of modern warfare. At most they would have been involved in occupation duties in Germany after the war. Our independence from Britain would have been in no way compromised by us participating.
    Last edited by Hitch 22; 30th January 2013 at 08:57 PM.

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    Given that the Irish Defence Force did not part in armed combat with either side demonstrates that the country was militarily neutral. A pragmatic decision not to enter the war (eg in the basis of our anti-aircraft power, risk to civilians, loss of soldiers, many Irish soldiers who joined the British would have had to defend the State instead of engaging in the war effort v being on the winning side, benefit of a Marshall aid plan, a deal on partition) but it was elevated to a principle. De Valera's biggest mistake was to pay respect to the US ambassador on the death of FDR, which then required him (and President Hyde) to go the Germans a few weeks later (which was somewhat offensive then, but appears morally bankrupt now).

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    Quote Originally Posted by owedtojoy View Post
    There is a pervasive myth that Irish neutrality 1939-1945 was scrupulously even-handed and principled.

    That was not true. One historian (Joe Lee) described De Valera's policy as "anglophile", adding that Dev did not have to endure from the Allies the same bullying endured by the Spanish, Swedes and Swiss.

    Ronan Fanning in Independent Ireland takes from British Cabinet records a list of the way Ireland helped the Allied cause - a list that surprised even its most anti-Irish members.

    Below, They = The Irish (my own comments are in [])

    1. They agreed to the use of Lough Foyle for naval and air purposes.
    2. They agreed to an air corridor for aircraft taking off from Lough Erne.
    3. They agreed to the transmission of information regarding submarine activity.
    4. They broadcast reports by their Air Observer Corps of aircraft sighted over Southern Ireland.
    5. They arranged for the extinction of trade and business lighting in coastal towns [so as to confuse German aircraft].
    6. They continued to supply meteorological reports [one of which was vital for D-Day]
    7. They agreed to the use of two radio-direction-finding stations at Malin Head.
    8. They arranged for staff talks on the question of co-operation in the event of a possible German invasion of Southern Ireland.
    9. They interned all German fighting personnel reaching Southern Ireland. On the other hand, Allied personnel are returned.
    10. They have agreed to return German prisoners-of-war who escape from Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland.
    11. They continue to exchange security information.
    12. They agreed to establish a radar station in Southern Ireland.


    De Valera, by means of the strictest censorship ever in the history of the state, kept these facts from the Irish public, who were led to believe that our neutrality was a reality.

    Eunan O'Hailpin in Defending Ireland puts it differently. He says the British and Americans "extracted a considerable price for tolerating Irish neutrality, which was large paid in secret". But it was a price Dev was more than willing to pay so as to display a faux "even handedness" to his pro-German Republican adversaries. He feared these internal enemies more than the feared the Allies.

    So, was 1939-1945 Irish neutrality a "sham"? It was certainly more pragmatic than principled, but where you set the bar between sham and sincerity probably depends initially on your own bias and political affiliation.
    I dont think that "myth" is accepted very much these days, most people know we were neutral/for the Allies.

    It was pragmatic and real politik, we had little or no choice...

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    Politics.ie Member owedtojoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruserious View Post
    I don't mean to sound ignorant, but hasn't all this been discussed many times before with common agreement?
    Possibly, but I have been reading here for some time without noticing.

    Also, most posters put up a defence of Irish neutrality as a principled stand by the Irish, and so it was presented by Dev's government at the time. My aim is to challenge that by showing it was pragmatically pro-Allied in practice, something kept hidden from the Irish public.
    "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence" - David Hume

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    Politics.ie Member stopdoingstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lain2016 View Post
    It was pragmatic and real politik, we had little or no choice...
    And more importantly, we got away with it.
    Faoi mhóid bheith saor

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    Politics.ie Member ruserious's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by owedtojoy View Post
    Possibly, but I have been reading here for some time without noticing.

    Also, most posters put up a defence of Irish neutrality as a principled stand by the Irish, and so it was presented by Dev's government at the time. My aim is to challenge that by showing it was pragmatically pro-Allied in practice, something kept hidden from the Irish public.
    They were non-alligned on the side of the allies. I thought that was pretty much common knowledge.
    Boycott the "Irish" Sun rag.

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