While I know that everybody is busy contemplating recent events, I would like to ask you to take some time out so that I can share this little nugget of history with you. The paragraphs beforehand are merely condensed background material so that the Churchill quote and de Valera’s audio response, the main focus of this post, are in the proper context.

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War on 1st of September 1939, the Government of the South of Ireland, which was at that time nominally a Dominion of the British Empire, immediately declared its neutrality. This policy, which was instigated by Taoiseach Éamon de Valera, was chosen for three reasons:

 

  1. Because of the existence of partition between the North and the South of Ireland, Éire could not, in good faith, enter a war on the side of the British.
  2. The position of neutrality would reinforce the independence of Éire.
  3. Éire had neither the equipment nor the infrastructure to fight in a modern, mechanised war.

 

This policy was resented the British Government, which desperately wanted Southern Irish ports and airfields to protect against German attacks to their supply network and to ensure that Germany could  not invade Britain through Ireland. However, the Government of the South of Ireland steadfastly refused to entertain any offers to enter the war, despite consistent pressure by both the British and eventually the American Governments.

This policy was especially resented by the British Prime Minister at the time, Winston Churchill, who personally regarded it as a cowardly and unseemly position. During his victory speech following the collapse of the Third Reich Churchill made the following comments concerning the South of Ireland’s conduct during WW2:

 

“[…] Owing to the action of Mr. de Valera, so much at variance with the temper and instinct of thousands of southern Irishmen, who hastened to the battlefront to prove their ancient valor, the approaches which the southern Irish ports and airfields could so easily have guarded were closed by the hostile aircraft and U-boats.
This was indeed a deadly moment in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland we should have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr. de Valera or perish forever from the earth. However, with a restraint and poise to which, I say, history will find few parallels, we never laid a violent hand upon them, which at times would have been quite easy and quite natural, and left the de Valera Government to frolic with the German and later with the Japanese representatives to their heart’s content. […]”

 

These comments provoked the following reaction from de Valera, who made his comments in a radio address to the Irish people:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isNOQ3zQ2F0&feature=player_embedded

Well, I hope you all found that interesting. I certainly did.

Links:

Winston Churchill’s speech, May 13, 1945: http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1945/1945-05-13a.html

De Valera’s speech, May 16, 1945: http://www.rte.ie/laweb/brc/brc_1940s_a.html

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KillgoreTrout
Member

Caru, in all fairness to you, you are both right and wrong. Hitler did want the east for, “living space.” But as I said earlier, he also had an extreme desire to eradicate international Jewry. In order to pursue this end, he had to occupy western Europe, as well as the east. And yes, you are correct that he wanted Great Britain to be a part of the axis of power. But his invasion of Poland put an end to any such hopes. But to say he never wanted to go to war and occupy western Europe, is just not true. There is debate among historians ans scholars about this, but most agree that Hitler did indeed have aspirations of world dominance.

KillgoreTrout
Member

Hitler didn’t even come to power until 1934. Five years later he invaded Poland. But his first invasion/occupation was Austria.
Hitler had a great resentment toward western Europe after the first world war, especially France.

ADONAI
Member

I wanna get in on the Hitler talk.

Everything Caru said is true. For about 3 years. Hitler wanted an empire. That’s for certain. He believed Germany had a “right” to the territory around it.

I don’t think he ever originally intended on conquering Britain or America. Simply neutralizing them. Building a great German empire that would eventually overtake them culturally and economically. And you can’t forget Italy. Italy declared war in Africa and Italy moved forces to instigate confrontation with English forces.

Hitler went crazy though. Maybe not clinically insane but at some point his reach began exceeding his grasp. Invading Russia was a stupid move. An INCREDIBLY stupid move. At some point Hitler became the comic book villain many of us think he is.

He invoked the Final Solution, signed off on the complete decimation of Eastern Britain, and actually began planning an invasion of the east coast of North America. I don’t think he ever liked the Pearl Harbor bombing because it was a failure. He was smart. He always knew America would have to be dealt with at some point. I think he was hoping for a diplomatic resolution. Pearl Harbor ended any chance of that because America’s navy was still near full strength and we were super pissed.

I think America’s entrance into WW 2 is what kept Hitler in Russia. One of us had to go. I believe he really did want a world led/ruled by Germany and the “Aryan race”.

Now, as far as neutrality,

“You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”
~Howard Zinn

A lot of people in Europe didn’t want war for whatever reason but war was upon them regardless. There is no “sitting this one out”.

KQµårk 死神
Member

The Irish of course should have remained neutral but they should have honored their treaties as well like Portuguese did. I mean I understand why Ireland didn’t want to help the UK because of their history but I would not make it out as any grand moment in history for Ireland. They were serving their self interests just like everyone else.

Churchill resented the US as well because Republicans were isolationists and he wanted the US to enter the war sooner.

Face it at one point before the Soviet Union was compelled to enter the war the UK was the only country preventing everyone in Europe from speaking German.

jkkFL
Guest

Fascinating, Caru! I loved his remark “I will try to reply as dispassionately as possible!”
Mission accomplished.
Did you research this yesterday? 😉
“Much Boredom abounded.”

Mightywoof
Member

I loved de Valera’s speech, Caru – thanks for ferreting out this nugget of history! I especially loved de Valera’s congratulating Churchill (paraphrasing)for resisting his temptation to invade the 6 counties – what delicious sarcasm.

I have to come clean here – I’m a Canadian but born and raised in the south of England; I left those shores 3 months before my 24th birthday. I had an absolutely English view of Ireland but left the UK before the IRA campaign so my views had not been coloured by that. I changed my views after reading a novel – Leon Uris ‘Trinity’ – I had never read or been taught the other side of the story and I was blown away! As repellent as I now find Churchill’s views on Empire, he was a man of his time and the English in me is grateful he was there through WW2 but what England did to Ireland is – forgive the saying – beyond the pale – but then, England did that to so many countries on this earth.

Trinity has left me very conflicted though ………. I can understand why Scotland wants to be a country in its own right and I can understand why Quebec wants to separate from Canada – heck, I can understand why the Cree want to separate from Quebec if Quebec does indeed separate from Canada – my conflict comes from my not liking it and I can’t separate the part of me that can see the perils of larger countries fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces in this era of global corporatism from the part of me that is a member of the dominant group so I don’t know whether my feelings are simply logically concerned or jingoistic. In the end, though, it is not my decision and that is good and right – I will never approve of violence to keep a people within national borders if they have no desire to remain.

I don’t think I’ve expressed myself very well here – it’s a bit rambling and I apologise. I do hope you continue writing articles here – especially about Ireland and it’s history and struggles

Khirad
Member

I forgot where I got this, but Chomsky had a great observation, if I may paraphrase.

He was doing radio interviews. One with English radio, and the other with Irish. He was trying to explain something about the effects of imperialism on so-and-so, and it took something like 14-20 minutes to explain it to the English. When he got to it in Ireland, they looked annoyed, and said, no, we get it, move on.

Such is the diametric perspectives of those whom have cracked the whip for hundreds of years, and those whom have been under its yoke for hundreds of years.

Now, since it was brought up… I’ve been sympathetic to Scottish Nationalism ever since I jumped into my roots in High School, so here’s my (very brief and incomplete) case for Scotland. I sometimes hear the poor comparisons that they should just “get over it” like the South. Well, the Confederacy was not a country of its OWN for a THOUSAND YEARS before being sold out by its nobles, and had its own languages (Gaelic and Scots), etc. One could argue the South had its own culture, so, I’ll let that one comparison slide.

I wonder how Caru would feel if it were proposed that Ireland should have just “gotten over it” during the Pale, etc? Not to say I’d compare Scotland’s subjugation with Ireland’s. I can recount litanies of injustices done upon the Scots, but in the end, Scots went from the abused themselves, to collaborators in Ireland’s subjugation, just as the Welsh had against Scotland before. The Communist anti-war (and also WWI neutrality advocate on similar grounds as de Valera) noted these ironies in The Irish Tragedy: Scotland’s Disgrace..

But oh, there’s still grievances against England, oh yes… not against the English people, but Westminster. For the very lack of such perspective that would make Scotland akin to the sore losers of the Confederacy, or would simply pat it on the head and ask it to stop acting up and making a fuss. Well, that infuriates me — that condescension. The very interchangeability of ‘English’ with ‘British’ irks me to no end, as well. Maybe Scots and we of Scottish extraction (which I’m sure you’ve gathered by now about me), want independence if for no other reason than a fear of being subsumed into English identity in another few hundred years.

Lemme take as another hypothetical: Poland has been conquered by Prussia. It stands that way. “Too bad, get over it?” Are there flaws with that comparison, yes, but it’s meant to be illustrative. Of the natural right of a peoples to their own self-determination.

…By the way, you don’t even need to get me hammered. No, this song only takes 2-3 beers and I start with the waterworks like a wee baby. –I’m not kidding. I just did it Friday, with the news of the SNP win still fresh.

KQµårk 死神
Member

I thought his speech was pretty feckless. I think if you have to come up with two hypothetical invasions it’s a pretty weak argument.

Khirad
Member

Really? I thought it was definitely ‘oh, snap’ worthy.

If England wanted them to join in, how about this? Cede Northern Ireland first.

I thought it was a brilliantly crafted hypothetical. Those in Empires tend to not be quite as capable of placing themselves in other shoes without them, and after Churchill’s comments, it was the PERFECT rejoinder in its symmetry.

kesmarn
Admin

Caru, my apologies that it has taken me this long to get to reading this most interesting article.

de Valera made a stunning speech there. I mean — really — people just do not speak that way any more, and I wonder if a modern audience would even be able to comprehend it.

Your article piqued my curiosity so I set about learning a bit more about de Valera. I learned than in 1916 he was in prison with other Irish rebels. 12 were executed and de Valera was next in line. Then the British government changed its policies on execution. He was that close to being a dead man in his youth!

Woof, I share your feelings of ambivalence about larger countries being fractured into tinier and tinier ones. I think the US Civil War was fought partly about that idea too — besides the main issue of slavery. I think, to Lincoln, the idea of the South becoming a separate nation was just so “not on” that he was willing to draw blood over it. Was that attitude — slavery aside– correct? I wonder.

Ireland has certainly been through some awful stuff. I recall reading that during the great Potato Famine there were “righteous” types in England who resisted the idea of sending aid to Ireland on the grounds that “doing too much for people causes them to become weak.”

Sounds awfully familiar in present day America, doesn’t it?