Ireland faced double threat at beginning of World War Two
Ian Kennedy Martin is quoted as saying in your theatre page (H&H February 26) about his play: `The springboard was learning that Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera expressed condolences for Hitler s death to the German Ambassador. He goes on to say: `
Ian Kennedy Martin is quoted as saying in your theatre page (H&H February 26) about his play: `The springboard was learning that Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera expressed condolences for Hitler's death to the German Ambassador.'
He goes on to say: `He was intrigued by the idea that a neutral country between two warring parties is tacitly on the side of the enemy.'
Which enemy does he mean? Ireland at the beginning of WW2 had two potential enemies -Britain and Germany.
Either country could have invaded Eire. Tens of thousands of US troops were stationed in Northern Ireland. There was a fear south of the border that these troops would invade at Britain's insistence.
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Ireland was in no position to be part of anyone's war. It had already fought Britain in the 1920s and gained a limited self-government with the country partitioned due to the threat of a most terrible war if it did not agree to Whitehall's terms. (Boer-War type concentration camps) There then followed a gruesome civil war when the new Irish government was supplied with British artillery. Guerrilla warfare continued into the 1930s, and has really never stopped right up to the present day.
It has got to be remembered that Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Iceland and Turkey were also neutral. Iceland was invaded by Britain and marked on the map as her ally. Iceland was later handed to the USA by its captors. Norway was next on the list for invasion but the Germans got there first by a week or two. Britain's occupation of Norway would have meant an incursion into neutral Sweden who was a accused of selling steel to Germany. Neutral countries do have a habit of deciding themselves where to export. They also exported to the UK. It's business. Irish ships also brought goods to wartime Japan, and to British home and colonial ports. That's also business. Big powers usually survive war.
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Yes, Eamon de Valera did express his condolences on Hitler's death to the German Ambassador n Dublin.
He also expressed condolences on the death of Neville Chamberlain in 1940. He had more reason for doing this than being diplomatic about Hitler's death - Chamberlain during his premiership had handed back the three British Treaty ports in Eire in 1938. Chamberlain's idea was that this would tone down Eire's animosity towards Britain and would help to keep her neutral in the coming world war.
Winston Churchill, on becoming prime minister, criticised Chamberlain's action. Churchill's idea was to have Eire on the British side whether Eamon de Valera wanted this or not. Still, if Winston Churchill had died at the end of the war then the Irish Prime Minister would have also expressed his condolences to the British Government. That is despite Churchill's insulting speech about Ireland and the Irish on the 8th of May, 1945 for Victory in Europe Day. I think it was Adam Smith who said or implied: `There is no love between nations only self-interest.'
Thousands of Irish men joined the British Army during WW2 with a smaller number joining the German Army via the Channel Islands. The Irish Government didn't encourage any of this and looked on these men as mercenaries - young men looking for adventure, something that has been going on for centuries in Ireland.
Atrophied thinking on Ireland's WW2 neutrality only re-opens the anti-Irish racist attitudes that existed in post-war Britain.
Wilson John Haire