Two of my Irish aunts served as nurses in the British Army in WWII and an Irish uncle served in the British merchant navy. The uncle experienced the horror of two of his ships being torpedoed. Britain's merchant marine saw huge casualties from U Boats,with the loss of around half a million lives according to one estimate. I'm proud of the adventurous spirit of these Irish relatives and of other Irish people like them who served in the great cause of defending western democracy against fascist Germany and its allies. With the wartime boom in the Irish economy,these people could have stayed at home. In my village,even the humble occupation of snaring rabbits was highly profitable with a huge sum of around 10 shillings a rabbit,which ended up in the top London restaurants.
I am not proud of the Irish government's policy of cowardly neutrality during the euphemistic "Emergency" as it was called.Had the German fascists defeated Britain,Ireland would have been conquered immediately. Ireland was a defence freeloader,depending on Britain to defend the country but doing nothing to help. Nicholas Monsarrat in his novel "The Cruel Sea" said that the sailors in the merchant navy were very bitter at "Irish eyes are smiling" while their ships were being sunk because the Royal Navy lacked access to Irish ports.
At best, Irish neutrality in WWII can be considered a selfish, pragmatic policy to keep the country out of the war. I view it as an embittered piece of narrow Republican nationalism that ignored the need to take a stand in defence of the European democracies. Since the war,many Irish political leaders and many Irish people,instead of being ashamed of our neutralism in WWII,seem to regard it as a great diplomatic and foreign policy achievement.
Today,the persistence of this thinking is hampering efforts to engage in the mutual defence of EU countries with which we are supposedly engaged in "ever closer union". There would be nothing honourable in cowardly hiding under the bed in the event that men and women from other EU countries went to war in our place.