Why wasn't the Republic of Ireland invaded (by either side) in WW2?

Why wasn't the Republic of Ireland invaded (by either side) in WW2?

Ireland was neutral in WW2, however it was never invaded (by either side). How come? Why wasn't Ireland invaded by the UK to prevent the Germans invading? Why didn't germany invade ireland? It would have allowed them to open a new front for the British, or given a staging post to invade UK. Why didn't this happen?


Neither side really saw enough of a strategic advantage. The UK was already spread thin trying to defend their own island, so going out and trying to take control of Ireland didn't make sense, even if it meant preventing Germany from doing so. Given the long history of turmoil between England and Ireland, I believe they were content that Ireland didn't side with Germany.

As for the Germans, they were already fighting a war on two fronts. Once they took control of France, they had just as good a staging post as they would have had in Ireland (and maybe better). Also, Ireland would have been more difficult to defend and supply, whereas France was a lot easier on both accounts.


Neither the Germans nor the British were even remotely interested in what Ireland had to offer at the time. It was a neutral country tucked away in the NW corner of Europe. Its military was not particularly strong by any means, although the Irish Republican Party and Eamon de Valera had gained independence from the British largely by military force in the 20s.

To be more specific, the Germans were not interested in Ireland because:

  1. the fledgling country did not pose a threat, militarily or politically or otherwise.

  2. the Nazi ideology was not particularly opposed to the Irish people, many of whom were considered "Aryans",

  3. invading and occupying would require a lot of naval/manpower for negligible gain,

  4. the British would likely have helped defend it given its potential to stage a second attack front on Britain.

Furthermore, though Ireland was completely independent from Great Britain by 1939, there were still close ties between the countries and indeed many Irish soldiers were hired as mercenaries to fight for the British Empire -- on a volunteer basis. In this sense, they were unofficial allies of Great Britain. The enmity of the Irish Independence movement had certainly quieted by then.

All in all, you can think of it as a business decision if you will. The potential profit was very low, while the initial costs were very high. Britain couldn't care less about Ireland, unless it came to defending it, and Germany was much more focused on defeating the superpowers of the age: Britain, Russia, and later the United States.


Germany was not particularly capable of mounting an amphibious assault, especially to a destination on the opposite side of Britain.

The UK/America was not in the habit of invading neutral countries without justification. Doing so may have jeopardized their support from many other less powerful nations.

Also, Ireland didn't have much that was worth fighting for. The biggest advantage would have been shortening the Atlantic crossing, but that was hardly worth an invasion.


There was a plan for an invited British invasion of Ireland IF the Germans invaded, called Plan W.

And although officially neutral Ireland did give some assistance to Britain in terms of allowing overflights by Atlantic patrol aircraft and returning British and allied aircraft and crew that were forced to make emergency landings.


Both Germany and Great Britain had plans to invade Ireland.

Germany couldn't launch such an attack as they lacked the naval power to do it, as they knew that the Royal Navy would intervene. For the same reason they never tried to invade Great Britain, an invasion of Ireland would have been even more difficult due to the distances involved, they would have had few aircraft capable of operating at the distances required while the British would have been able to send forces from Wales and South West England for example.

Britain's plans to invade would be in response to any German invasion, so they were never required to actually invade.


Germany did in fact attempt to stir up unrest in Ireland, as seen by this BBC article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3264257.stm

The MI5 documents show that three men who landed on the southern coast of Ireland in 1940 were found with four bombs hidden inside cans labelled "French peas".

The saboteurs claimed they were for use against Buckingham Palace.

[… ]

The three agents were landed by dinghy near Cork, but their exploits were shortlived.

Their tactic, of asking the first person they met if they could be taken to the IRA, did not work.

The man took them to the police instead.

The plot was dismissed as amateurish by MI5.

Unfortunately, the first Irishman they approached (whom they hoped would lead them to the IRA) handed them over to the police instead.

They also had plans of using the IRA as proxies/allies to invade Northern Ireland, but the plotters were also arrested.

So, they didn't get to invade Ireland, but not for lack of trying.


Ireland was a de facto ally of Britan. It had heavy trade ties with Britain and supplied it with volunteer soldiers and mercenaries. Irish industrial production came to Britain and ships under Irish flag transported British goods without a risk of being attacked. Conversely, forcing conscription of Irish population could lead to a pro-Germany unrest.

That said Britain was very much interested to have Ireland as a formally neutral country.

On the other hand, Germany simply had no means to attack Ireland because Britain had a strong fleet and any attack on Ireland was impossible without sea superiority.


If Hitler had conquered Great Britain, I think that they would have also invaded Ireland afterwards. Germany, despite its promises, did have plans to invade Switzerland and Sweden after defeating all other European countries, so I think Ireland would have suffered a similar fate. During the War, however, it simply did not have any importance or significance (exept for providing volenteer troops to Britain), so neither Hitler nor Britain would have bothered to attempt any kind of amphibious invasion.


Northern Ireland Prime Minister Lord Craigavon had asked Churchill in 1940 to invade the Republic of Ireland at the height of the war, as he felt that Valera was coming under the influence of Hitler.

Churchill did not move at that time but later prepared detailed plans for an invasion of southern Ireland.

Field Marshal Montgomery stated in his memoirs: “I was told to prepare plans for the seizure of Cork and Queenstown in southern Ireland so the harbors could be used as naval bases.”


Well, Germany was going to give aid to the Irish during the Easter Rebellion of 1916. They were not able to give them aid because of World War I raging on. Now for the British… they were already still fighting the Irish in North and South Ireland, plus Ireland went through a civil war in the early 1920's so leadership was all jacked up. Eamon De'valara (Dev), also agreed somewhat with what Hitler was doing. NOT THE WHOLE HOLOCAUST PART, but after Hitlers death, Dev was quoted being upset with his death. Hope this helps :))


After fighting Great Britain for their independence, I don't think they wanted another war. Especially after Hitler lied to the Soviets with the N.A.P., Hitler couldn't be trusted. Ireland's hate for the English is so much more than the Germans. So Ireland played both sides.


England's oldest colony. This short section looks at the history of the Irish people, who the English never seemed to be able to understand and always came off second best to other more important territories under English rule. (Particularly in France in the Middle Ages and India under Victoria)

1500 years ago and before

The Irish psyche

Ireland was never invaded, ruled and unified by the culturally sophisticated, logical and practical Romans but remained ruled by hundreds of separate regional Celtic war lords with pagan religions. Some pagan religious customs would give any modern child permanent nightmares. The Irish had the alarming habit of always going into battle stark naked. On the other hand music and poetry were a key part of the local kings pleasures and if their ancient poetry is to be believed so were liberated sexual practices. Women were not the second class citizens as in the Roman and then the Christian world and local Irish queens were not uncommon.

The Irish have always been noted for a complete disregard for time, even worse than Italians, Greeks, Spanish and Arabs from the hot, easy living Mediterranean countries. Very different from those coming from further north in Europe were the harsher climate has always required timescales and forward planning. This can be explained from the origins of the Celts in Ireland and the different Celts in Britain for example. The Irish Celts originated from the Iberian peninsular that is a hot and fertile. Ireland was also noted for an abundance of food notably fish in the many rivers and lakes, and honey. The Celts in England came from north of the Rhine and the English were further interbred with Angles and Saxons, Vikings and Normans. All who settled and all emanating from the north of Europe and bringing with them those disciplines which a harsher climate develops.

Freud claimed that the Irish were the only people in the world he was unable to psychoanalyse. An Elizabethan Jesuit wrote the Irish were, "religious, frank, amorous, hot tempered, hypochondriacs, sorcerers, great horsemen and very generous." And this was after they were civilised by St Patrick.

1500 to 1000 years ago
The influence of St Patrick (400AD) and his version of Christianity. Patricus was the son of a Roman/British priest who, lived in the west of England but was captured by one of the regular and frightening, Irish slave raiding parties and taken back to Ireland. Following a vision he escaped slavery and returned to his parents in England en-route to southern France where he studied and was ordained near Nice. He would have been a contemporary, and influenced by, but did not meet the most influential Western Roman Empire based Christian philosopher, St Augustine of Hippo (near Carthage in modern day Tunisia).

On his return to Ireland he effectively converted the whole of Ireland to his version of Christianity, very much a mixture of Philosophy, Roman Christian theology and Celtic pagan ways. For example the rights of women were maintained and marriage and divorce remained a state function. The puritanical sexual views of St Paul were not part of his sermons. St Patrick's evangelical followers supported by bibles studiously copied in the new Irish monasteries allowed Christianity to be reintroduced throughout the Western Roman Empire which had been razed by the pagan Germanic tribes from north of the Rhine.

The Viking invasion.(800 AD)
As in England and northern France, Ireland suffered the ruthless Vikings, searching for land less affected by the mini Ice Age of the time. In Ireland however the Vikings were more interested with agricultural trade with their home land than permanent land acquisition and created Ireland's first towns for the purpose, including Dublin. (Almost 1000 years after towns were created in England)

1000 to 500 years ago
The Anglo Norman Invasion. 1000 years after the Romans had unified and modernized England, the Irish Kings (better war lords) were still fighting each other for the position of "High King" and one (in 1169) made the drastic mistake of asking the current Anglo Norman king to intervene on his side. The King in question was none other than England's Henry 2nd who is well known as a great contributor to law and order but also was militarily the most powerful King and the largest land owner in the whole of Europe. Quite naturally Henry decided to annex Ireland to his already huge empire.

The Irish were now stuck with ruthless English rule for almost 1000 years and worse as was customary at the time, Henry rewarded his conquering Anglo Norman Barons with large tracts of prime Irish land. The Irish occupation by the culturally very different English had commenced, along with principle of land grabbing by favourites of the English ruling family of the time. Unfortunately for Ireland, during this period the English rulers at home were much more interested in their possessions in sunny and fertile France than the permanently hostile and warlike environment of Ireland which suffered under the powerful English barons accordingly.

500 years ago
The English split with the Pope in Rome under Henry 8th and later adopted a semi Protestant Lutheran version of Christianity which retained many Catholic elements, (Anglo Catholic or Anglican) worked out by the English Queen, Elizabeth the 1st as head of the Church of England in relatively amicable discussions with her Catholic Bishops. At the same time the Scottish adopted the extreme Protestant Calvinistic Christian faith called Presbyterianism. The Irish now ruled by a Protestant England, stoically reject any forms of the new progressive Protestant form of Christianity.

From this moment on the English viewed the Irish as potential enemies who might side with England's traditional and powerful enemies and puppets of the Pope, Catholic France and Spain. The English fear was well founded when Ireland called on Spain to rid them of the Protestant English. The now powerful English made short work of annihilating the combined Spanish and Irish armies in the south of Ireland. In England, worship of the Catholic faith was banned which of course they tried to do in Ireland. This was reinforced by taking away all the rights any Catholic had to property and public service.

500 years ago to 100 years ago
A 400 year period of continuous religious persecution by both sides resulting in a lasting and permanent hatred by extremists on both sides. The English renewed the Anglo Norman policy of rewarding loyal supporters with large tracts of Irish land. But the loyal supporters were now of course Protestant, who had a suspicion of all Catholics and vice versa, plus in the case of Ulster, Scottish Protestant extremists, called Presbyterians. The stage was set for religious jihads which have lasted until today. Most notable of these were: Oliver Cromwell, a fundamentalist Calvinist Puritan, took over the leadership of England from one of the worst kings, Charles the 1st. Charles had infuriated the Irish by imposing taxes to fund his religious aim to make all of his Empire, including Ireland, Anglican.

No wonder the Irish rebelled particularly as no taxes could be raised in England at this time as Charle's religious evangelism made him feel he had the divine right to rule England without Parliament. Cromwell created a formidable, religiously motivated, army which beat Charles supporters in the English Civil War and Charles was beheaded in 1649. Cromwell's next task was to put down the rebellion in Ireland which had turned nasty with Protestants in the north of Ireland together with their churches being razed by the angry Catholics. Cromwell, a religious fundamentalist, was also a formidable general and had honed his "Model Army" to be the best fighting force in the whole of Europe with every man fighting in God's name. Once in Ireland this Crusading force systematically marched from the North to the South massacring any Catholic in its path. By 1655 not a single Catholic land owner remained on the fertile land, east of the river Shannon. The Catholic Irish have not forgotten Oliver Cromwell.

William of Orange.
Some 20 years later, the then King of England Charles 2nd died and was succeeded by his Catholic brother to be called James 2nd who had spent many years in Catholic France close to the legendary French "Sun King" Louis 14th. To Protestant England this was a disaster but to Catholic Ireland, hope of a Catholic revival was on the horizon. The English Parliament, looking for a solution, asked the Dutch Protestant husband of James the 2nd daughter, Mary, namely Holland's William of Orange to fight his way into England and become king. This he accepted readily as he was already in religious skirmishes with the mighty Catholic, Louis 14th and wanted England's military might on his side in the conflict which was to end up as the largest European religious war of all time.

William responded rapidly, and James fled to his natural Catholic power base Ireland where he quickly sought to massacre as many Protestants as he could. In the north many of these Protestants took refuge in the walled city of Derry to which James? forces lay siege. Protestant fundamentalists don?t give up easily and the "Siege of Derry" lasted 105 days with those trapped keeping alive by eating rats, eventually to be rescued by a small advanced landing party of William's forces. (1689). James sought and gained reinforcements from France but King Louis needed his top generals in Europe. William landed in the north of Ireland in June 1690 and swept south to the Boyne River some 50 miles north of Dublin were he was confronted by James? Franco-Irish forces.

The bloody battle of the Boyne eventually won by William's Protestant forces is thought to be Irelands most important battle, neither Spain nor France wishing to come in strength to the aid of the Catholic Irish again. It is interesting to note that much of James? army were descendants from the original Anglo- Norman occupiers of Ireland who were called The Old English and who had remained Catholic and were allowed to flee to France in the mopping up operation by William's general. (Called the flight of the Wild Geese).

The route to Independence. 200 years ago onwards.
Independence from oppressive foreign rule was fuelled all over the world by the 1776 American war of independence, the 1789 French revolution and the liberating of some of the Mediterranean countries from Ottoman rule by the English, notably Greece. In 1798 this gave the Irish, again supported by a French militia, the encouragement to campaign for freedom from the British. These Franco Irish forces were quickly "eliminated" by the powerful English. They were reluctant to give any inkling of a willingness to submit to an agenda of independence as they didn't want to give the 500 million or so inhabitants of the Indian sub-continent or "Jewel in the Crown" any similar feelings. However the steady progress towards Irish independence went ahead step by bloody step. The key was when the English persuaded the Irish Parliament to vote for its own dissolution and under the Act of Union, Ireland became a wholly integrated part of the UK. Thence Irishmen, be they only the Protestant ruling classes (Catholics were not eligible), had seats in the British Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

Daniel O'Connell. The father of modern Irish nationalism.
The Irish had waited for someone to lead them out of hell for centuries and finally in 1775, the man was born. O'Connell was an early beneficiary of the Catholic relief act (1793) which permitted Catholics to be trained for the London Bar (Barristers or Advocates). He returned to Dublin to practice Law. He dreamt of a peasants revolution but avoiding the bloodshed of the French version of which he had had direct experience during his school days in France. In 1823 he formed the "Catholic Association", a peoples movement with a low enough monthly contribution (1 penny) to enable everyone to join. His collectors were the Catholic Church. Using this power base he got himself elected as the MP for County Clare in 1823 but of course no Catholic could sit in the London Westminster, House of Commons.

Following this incredible victory the British Government were forced to bow to a potential popular uprising in Ireland and lifted some of the restrictions on Irish Catholics. O'Connell was permitted to take his seat opening up a Catholic parliamentary route to any seat in Ireland. Eventually and inevitably it would be the Irish Catholics with about 60 seats, who had the balance of power in the two party (Whig and Tory) system at Westminster and independence was a given. (The process however dragged on for another 70 years because the Republic of Ireland was not formed until 1949 following much further acrimony and bloodshed)

Victorian times.
The English were then the most powerful nation in the world but had no special place in their hearts for their oldest colony even though they were white, mainly because they were Catholic and apparently economically without hope. While the Dickensian English Empire builders robbed the inhabitants of India and shot the Aboriginal Australian Natives plus 10 million North American Buffalo for sport, they let a million Catholics in the potato fed west of Ireland starve to death in the four year Potato Famine of 1845-49. In the meantime Presbyterian fundamentalists in the north or Ireland, fuelled by their religious work ethic, and owning all the fertile land, remained well fed and went economically from strength to strength as they joined in the English Industrial Revolution. (At this time only 10% of Ireland's land was owned by Catholics and this was the barren West Coast, a mixture of rock and bogs.)

The Irish today.
Catholic Ireland finally gained independence from their Protestant English rulers but the Presbyterian Irish majority in the north voted to remain within the British Empire. Ireland is therefore split just like the other British colonies of India, Cyprus and Iraq, with a bigoted religious minority trapped in a hostile country. Religious leaders unfortunately seem to do all in their power to maintain the hatred of the other sects by, for example, insisting on religiously segregated schools.

Today the Catholic South now the Republic of Ireland has joined the European Community and prosper with the aide of development grants and an Italian style, apparent disregard for the difficult parts of Catholic faith. The Catholic minority in the north which is still part of the UK keep up a steady pressure, some of it violent, for a united Ireland. For the Irish Presbyterian fundamentalists it would be over their dead bodies.


The Irish World War II shame - Irish soldiers faced hostility after arriving home

The book, Returning Home, is by the young Galway historian Bernard Kelly, and it investigates the shameful way the estimated 12,000 Irish veterans who returned to Ireland after the end of the Second World War were treated.

Let's put it like this -- it's a long way from Saving Private Ryan.

Sign up to IrishCentral's newsletter to stay up-to-date with everything Irish!

You would think that after fighting Hitler's armies the returning ex-servicemen would have got a hero's welcome home. But they didn't.

Instead, they came back to a country that was scornful of, ignorant of, and indifferent about what they had been through. In many cases, they faced open hostility. Their service in the British forces was seen by many at home as anti-national, almost traitorous.

The book tells the stories of many of these Irish servicemen and women who fought in the war, but I particularly liked the one about a guy called John Kelly who left rural Kilkenny to join the British Army and ended up fighting the Germans in North Africa.

In 1943, after the heat of the battle to liberate Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, he was sitting in a bar in the city center having a drink also there celebrating the liberation of the city were some American conscript soldiers.

Hearing his Irish accent, the Americans said, “Say, you guys are neutral, you’re not in the war at all!” Kelly explained that he was a volunteer. The reaction of the Americans was, “Are you goddamn mad or something?”

It was a fair question. Kelly, and thousands of other Irishmen like him, had left the safety of neutral Ireland and risked death or injury to fight in the Second World War. They played their part in defeating Hitler.

But they got no thanks for it when they came home. It's a disgraceful and shameful part of recent Irish history. It shows how small-minded and inward-looking Ireland was at the time.

De Valera had kept Ireland neutral during the war while the British and the Americans fought the most brutal and evil regime the world had ever seen.

Whether that decision was morally justifiable given the murder and mayhem unleashed across Europe by Hitler is arguable. One can take the view that as a weak, newly independent country we had other priorities.
But at the very least the sacrifice made by thousands of Irish people who volunteered to fight Hitler should have been recognized when they came back. After fighting the Nazis the 12,000 Irish veterans deserved that much.

Instead they came back to a country where the attitude to them was so poisonous they quickly learned to keep their war service secret.

Even worse, of the 12,000 Irish veterans an estimated 5,000 had deserted from the Irish Army to join the British and fight Hitler and they faced potentially severe punishment when they returned home. All of the veterans also had a practical reason for keeping their mouths shut -- they came back to a country that was severely depressed, and being an ex-serviceman did not help in the search for a job.

There was a lot of ignorance in Ireland about the war. Unlike in Britain, where the entire country had been caught up in the war effort and as a result had great admiration for the returning soldiers, the Irish public had little understanding of the veteran's experiences.

All the Irish public had been through were the minor inconveniences of what de Valera called "the Emergency," which involved keeping the country on alert and putting up with some shortages and rationing.
Even the terminology says a lot about Ireland at the time. The rest of the world had a world war. In Ireland we had "the Emergency."

Despite the ignorance here, however, by 1945/’46 many Irish people were aware that details of Nazi atrocities were emerging. You would think that this might have changed attitudes. But it didn't.

"Word of Nazi atrocities were filtering back to Ireland, partly through the media and partly through people like Dubliner Albert Sutton, who visited Belsen soon after it was liberated and saw harrowing scenes there," Kelly said at the launch of his book.

"But the whole experience of neutrality had opened an emotional breach between the Irish population and the U.K. Censorship, isolation and neutrality meant that while many people in Ireland were well aware of the war, they had no attachment to it. There was a genuine sense of pride and satisfaction that Ireland had avoided the war, despite pressure from London and Washington.

"When ex-servicemen returned their friends and family were delighted to see them, but they encountered indifference from the government and much of the population. There were no bands out to meet them because most people did not see the Second World War as Ireland's war it wasn't something to be celebrated.

"From the government's point of view, they had not fought for Ireland, so they were not Dublin's responsibility. As for the bulk of the public, they simply didn't understand what the veterans had been through," Kelly said.

One writer quoted by Kelly recalls that in his home city of Cork they "were more concerned with the horrors of rationing than with anything that was happening in Europe.” Which sums up Irish attitudes at the time.
The whole business is still a very sensitive subject, even today. When Kelly was doing interviews for the book many of the surviving veterans and the families of deceased veterans asked him not to use their surnames or addresses. For that reason, the servicemen and women are referred to in the book on a first name only basis.

A man called George returned to Dublin from service with the Royal Navy, and he said it felt "as if you didn’t exist -- nobody wanted us."

Another man called William, who left Dublin to join the RAF, was dumbfounded by the ignorance of the war in Ireland. He was told by his neighbors that stories about German concentration camps were simply "British propaganda."

Another man called Larry, who left Wicklow to join the Royal Navy, was absolutely "shattered" by people’s attitudes when he returned home. He says that his fellow countrymen were interested only in "drinking themselves into oblivion, not a single thought about what was going on beyond the horizon. And they didn’t care a damn either."

One can understand the anger of many Irish ex-servicemen who had been though a lot during the war, in ways that changed their lives forever. Back home, however, people did not want to know or just didn't care.
John Kelly, the guy in the bar in Tunis, is an example. He was aboard the Polish ship Chobry when it was sunk off the Norwegian coast in April 1940, and barely escaped with his life. He fought his way through North Africa and stormed ashore at Anzio in Italy in 1944, where he was severely wounded and almost died.

He says he was rescued by a Kerryman, but then was further wounded by an RAF airstrike. He was evacuated and was invalided out of the army afterwards.

His brother fought in the Far East. John died in 2009 and there are pictures of him in the book.
But my favorite picture is the one on the cover of the book, which you see here. The two young men are Michael and Paddy Devlin, both from Longford Town.

Like many Irish from the south, they crossed the border to join the British army in Enniskillen in 1939 at the start of the war. They were posted to different units and fought in France.

Their units were smashed by the German attack in May 1940. Both were evacuated from French beaches. The men survived the ordeal but are now deceased.

Based on interviews with surviving veterans and drawing on a wide array of archival sources, Returning Home explores how the Irish ex-servicemen coped with the frosty welcome they got when they came back to Ireland, with the difficult task of re-integration, their economic difficulties and psychological problems.

The treatment of deserters from the Irish Army who joined the British to fight in the war is only now being addressed, nearly 67 years after they came home. The minister for defense here made a statement in February indicating that official steps are being taken to issue a formal pardon to all such veterans, alive or dead.

It's been a long time coming. It's disgraceful that it has taken so long.

But of course, the delay did not stop people here getting all misty-eyed over movies like The Longest Day or Saving Private Ryan over the years.

Overall, Returning Home makes an important contribution to how we view Ireland's connection to the Second World War and Irish participation in it.

The book is published by Merrion, the new history imprint of the Irish Academic Press. Kelly is currently working as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Edinburgh.


Join the discussion

/>Kremlington Swan says:

Everything would have been different if everything had been different. I agree.
Still, what is happening now that wasn’t happening then? A decline in the power of the Church. With a bit of luck this is a one way decline, since what has been all too apparent is the corruptibility of people who are given too much authority over others. This is not a Church, Protestant or Catholic, that deserves to rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of public disillusion. If the Church is to have any meaning for future generations it is going to have to understand the concept of service, and never waiver from that path (which was, in any case, laid out for it in the beginning). There should be no power of coercion or any form of rule available to any member of any church, up to and including its highest authorities.
Were that change to be formally consolidated, it would leave the political sphere uncontaminated by religious difference. The politician then simply gets on with making life better for the citizen. There is no longer any ‘us and them’, there is simply live and let thrive.

Would that lead to a united Ireland? Why not? Of course, entirely up to the people of Ireland to decide, but from where I stand it looks like one country to me.

/>Jos Haynes says:

It seems that the Southern Irish put a great deal of effort into winning friends and allies in the USA and Brussels but nothing towards winning over the NI Protestants and Unionists. Do they just want the territory without the people?

/>Robin Bury says:

Colm does not address the wdespread dscrmnaton in hs homeland aganst Southern Protestants. See my book Bured Lves: The Protestants of Southern Ireland whch took 10 years of research. From 1921-26 there was an exodus of some 48,000 Southern Protestants brought on by intmadaton and polte ethnc cleansng. From 1926-76 there was a decrease in their numbers of 41%. In 1911, natve Southern Protestants numbered 10%. To-day they number 3%. A Catholc natonalist Southern Ireland courted the Vatican for years. Irsh historans have shied away form this, includng Roy Foster and Michael Laffan. Colm I suggest is right on partition. As the historan Lam Kennedy has wrtten, the 3rd Home Rule Bll guaranteed protection of northern unonists rghts in a united Ireland but Carson and Crag foolishly forced through partition which led to 2 non-inclusive politcal and cultural opposong entities. And note to-day in the ROI the state broadcaster RTE relays the exclusive prayer of the Catholic church, the Angelus, twice a day, the only state broadcaster in the world to do this. Yet no ROI political party opposes this and thee is no lobby nor media pressure to remove this.
,

/>William Gladstone says:

I do wonder whether we will care about any of this in even 20 years, probably but not in a good way.
If China becomes the pre-eminent power in the world with India not far behind and the Islamic world and Africa modernising. None of these cultures care much for liberal democracy (yes India is a “democracy” but also a rigid caste system).
The likelihood is that a minority west will increasingly not care about Liberal Democracy either (the people having long been sold out by the globalist elite). So Irish tensions which lets face it have long been used by Britain’s fr/enemies (it is absolutely the fault of the British ruling class for not resolving these tensions) to gain advantage and leverage may still be used by these new global authoritarian powers. The idea that “free” Irishmen and “free” Ulstermen will be at each others throats at the behest of our new “colonial” masters in a divide and conquer strategy is I think not at all fanciful.

/>G Harris says:

Many of the big names in the NI paramilitaries were acknowledged, but useful psychopaths by their peers and organizations, so where this notion that in a parallel universe they might have put their murderous talents to good practical and peaceful use is a somewhat tenuous prospect to say the least.

I’ve made this point elsewhere, but it bears making again in light of this granted extremely well-written, but almost entirely counterfactual assertion piece above that of the more than 3,500 people killed in the conflict – never a declared war, you’ll notice – 52% of whom were civilians, 32% were members of the British security forces and only 16% were members of these supposedly brave paramilitary groups.

Republican paramilitaries were responsible for some 60% of the deaths, loyalists 30% and security forces 10%, so the idea of plucky, idealistic, otherwise well-intentioned freedom fighters isn’t just a stretch, the actual facts of ‘the conflict’ show it to be a gross distortion of the truth.

Not something I’m advocating, but if it had been a war and fully prosecuted as such by the British state it would have been over in a matter of weeks.

/>Jonathan Ellman says:

“Its leaders would have become skilled at applying for grants.” Oh such noble ambition.

/>Simon Newman says:

Not sure why a ‘united’ Ireland wouldn’t have ended up like Israel/Palestine, a permanent festering conflict.

/>Jon Redman says:

And what was their attitude in February 1940, when the Germans did not look like imminently losing?

/>Robin Lambert says:

Eamon De Valera Was Always Pro-German during WW2 as was SNP under Arthur Davidson, De Valera let U-boats refuel in irish Ports,sent Hitler A bouquet on his death,Not Good,but the Author shows his blinkered view..


Winston Churchill

Meanwhile, in London, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had resigned under pressure on May 13, making way for a new wartime coalition government headed by Winston Churchill. At first, British command opposed evacuation, and French forces wanted to hold out as well.

But with the BEF and its allies forced back on the French port of Dunkirk, located on the shores of the North Sea just 10 km (6.2 miles) from the Belgian border, Churchill soon became convinced evacuation was the only option.


Why Are the Irish Increasingly Siding With Palestine Over Israel?

Some years ago, I was having coffee in Dublin with an acquaintance who was telling me about the invidiousness of Israel and its oppression of Palestinians. My main thought at the time was how I could change the subject.

Growing up in the Irish republican stronghold of west Belfast, I was well aware that the Irish have tended to side with the Palestinians in the conflict. I remember the Palestinian flags adorning lampposts alongside the Irish tricolor and the Union-Jack-on-acid Basque flag. I even remember when pro-British loyalists, some of whom had notorious links with British neo-Nazi organizations, started to fly Israeli flags in retaliation. Irony isn’t strong enough a word for it.

So, hoping to change the subject, I mentioned something about Northern Ireland—I can no longer remember what—and my acquaintance replied, “I don’t know anything about the North.” This response stopped me short. Gaza is 2,500 miles from Dublin. The border with Northern Ireland is 70 miles up the M1 parkway. Tedious as the conflict in Ireland is, and I admit it really is, the Irish people should have some familiarity with it.

I don’t have a settled view on Israel and Palestine. I have never been a fan of partition. Both Irish states were shaped by the border, and it took decades for either to transform themselves into anything like modern European polities. I may daydream about a secular, single-state solution, but it’s really none of my business. If Israelis and Palestinians don’t want to live together, it’s not my place to tell them otherwise. After all, Irish republicans haven’t done a very good job of persuading unionists they’d be welcome in a united Ireland.

Among my countrymen, my position (or lack thereof) makes me an oddity. Most Irish people know exactly what they think of Israel and Palestine—and aren’t afraid to tell anyone.

Something other than religion motivates Irish antipathy to Israel. Speaking to me some years ago when I wrote a feature article for the Irish Times on Ireland’s Jewry, retired Belfast businessman Adrian Levey, who is Jewish, was keen to point out that anti-Semitism as such is not a problem, even on the divided streets of Belfast.

“Northern Protestants support Israel and Catholics support Palestine, it doesn’t really play out on the streets,” he said.

When you understand that Protestant and Catholic are not actually religious terms, but stand-ins for pro-British unionists and pro-Irish republicans, the statement makes perfect sense. For Irish republicans have long felt they were, as much as Palestinians, living in occupied territory. Hearing Northern Ireland described as the "Occupied Six Counties” was not uncommon in my youth during the 1990s.

In the less troubled Republic of Ireland, discourse is, if anything, even more fraught. In May 2013, Ireland's foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore, broke ranks with virtually the entirety of Irish polite society when he said in Parliament, "I would regard as unacceptable efforts to harass artists with a view to intimidating them from exercising their freedom of choice in relation to engagement with Israel.”

In January 2013, Israeli journalist Sarah Honig wrote in the Jerusalem Post of her outrage when, on holiday in the County Kerry town of Cahersiveen, she encountered a group of teenagers collecting for a Catholic charity project in Palestine and was greeted with classic anti-Semitism. “What do you have against Palestinians? What have they done to you? They are only against Jews. Jews are evil," they told her, adding that Jews were “always being villains" and "they crucified our Lord.”

Honig's report has been disputed: The school’s principal flatly denied the remarks. Either way, in blaming Catholicism Honig missed the real story. The Catholic church's relations with Judaism have long been tense, but since the end of the Second World War the church has made great strides. Anti-Semitic dogma has been dropped and real world relations between Rome and Jerusalem have never been better. Old-fashioned Catholic anti-Semitism is a thing of the past. Ireland isn’t much of a Catholic country these days anyway.

But in March of this year Alan Johnson, a professor of political theory at Britain's Edge Hill University, found out the hard way that Israel and Palestine still inflame Irish passions. Speaking at the National University of Ireland at Galway, he was shouted down by Palestine solidarity activists who represented the growing BDS movement calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions on Israel. A clip on YouTube shows a near-hysterical activist swearing profusely, and someone else shouting, “We don’t need your Israeli money.”

Johnson is hardly a right-wing Neo-Zionist. He supports a two-state solution. “What I’d said up to that point was it wasn’t necessarily anti-Semitic to have a boycott and that while I was in favor of two states for two people I didn’t think a boycott was the way to achieve it,” he says. Israel and Palestine are hot topics everywhere, of course, but Johnson says he was surprised by the level of vitriol he encountered. “I’ve spoken on a lot of campuses in the last three years and I’ve never experience anything like this. Some of the students I met told me this was not untypical."

Unlike Johnson, I cannot say I was surprised by the students’ protest. Palestine activism is extremely visible on the Irish left, often managing to marshall more people than domestic campaigns. Left-wing activism of all kinds has become increasingly shrill since the 2008 economic meltdown, the main legacy of which seems to have been not the much predicted rebirth of Marxism but an intensification of identity politics. Beyond that, though, even relatively unpolitical Irish people seem to view Israel with deep suspicion, at the very least.

Israel’s history of fighting Britain for independence could have made the Irish more sympathetic to the country, but Israel’s treatment of Palestinians has sown a dark seed in the Irish anti-colonial mindset. More important, as Israel has become more successful, potential Irish support for it has waned. In the Irish psyche, Israel functions as a surrogate for Britain: imperial and imperious and, above all, modern.

Ireland is also modern, of course, but wears its modernity lightly. Public infrastructure lags behind the rest of the European Union, and anti-development campaigns win support from across the political spectrum. Not being Britain remains central to Irish politics. Independent though the Republic of Ireland is, and despite Southern distaste for gauche Northern republicans and the IRA, even mainstream Irish identity is steeped in rebellion against the colonial master. Formerly a source of pride, it is more frequently expressed today in a free-floating sense of victimhood. Many Irish still feel they are the wretched of the earth.

As the Irish conflict has ended, or even as a result of it, Israel has become the favored target of an adventurous but ineffectual activist left in search of a cause that is both suitably righteous and distant. Unlike with other conflicts—say, the invasion of Western Sahara by Morocco—Israel’s modernity marks it as recognizably Western. It can easily be cast in the role of being little more than a U.S.-backed aggressor against the noble Palestinians unfettered by modern affectations.

Johnson say this does a disservice to Palestinians.

“When the Palestinians are anything other than [victims of Israel], when they’re being thrown off rooftops by Hamas or are being starved by Assad in Syrian refugee camps, [pro-Palestine activists] don’t have any interest in that,” he says. “They’re pro a certain kind of agency-less Palestinian. It’s politically useless.”


Why Don’t The Irish Speak Irish?

The Danes have Danish, the French speak French, the Slovakians talk in Slovak yet the Irish don’t speak Irish, but rather English. Almost all nations and people have their own language yet the Irish are one of the few nations who have a language that very few of its people can speak. Ireland is one of the only countries in Europe whose primary language is that of a foreign country. In fact, more people in Ireland speak Polish on a daily basis than Irish (and French is close behind). When I’m abroad I’m often asked if there even is an Irish language or if anyone still speaks it. Someone who only spoke Irish would have a very difficult time getting around in Ireland. But why is this the case?

Before I begin there are two small notes I should clarify. Firstly, pedants like to argue over the name of the language. Essentially, Irish people call it Irish, whereas foreigners call it Gaelic or Irish Gaelic. Some Irish people dislike the name Gaelic, but it’s not incorrect, it just marks you as an outsider. Secondly, the Irish word for the language Gaeilge is completely different from the word for the people Éireannach. This is an interesting difference from English as separates the language from the nationality and doesn’t imply that to be Irish you must speak Irish, as the English language implicitly does. This is also the case for the word for the English language Béarla and the English people Sasanach.

Now that’s out of the way, what is the state of the Irish language? According to the 2011 census, 1.77 million people in Ireland claimed they could speak Irish, which is 41% of the population. While this looks impressive on paper, it says nothing about the level of Irish people have or if they ever use it. More revealing is the number of people who claim to speak it on a daily basis, only 77,000 people, less than 2% of the population. These people mostly live on the West coast (in areas known as the Gaelthacht), in some of the most remote parts of the country. Worst still, there are no people who only speak Irish (monoglots) left, even native Irish speakers are also fluent in English.

Places where Irish is spoken on a daily basis according to the 2011 Census

In theory, Irish is the official language of the Republic of Ireland and people have the right to deal with government bodies through Irish. Signs are in both languages and if the Irish translation of the Constitution conflicts with the English, the Irish takes precedence. Irish is mandatory subject for all students born in Ireland and you must pass it in order to go to college. In school, there are three core subjects of English, Irish and Maths to which most resources are devoted. The government subsidies the language in many ways such as through the Irish language radio and TV station.

However, in practice, English dominates. Everyone born in Ireland grows up fluent in English. It is the language of TV, radio, newspapers, work and shops. Almost all jobs are done through English as well as almost all business. Politicians occasionally make symbolic gestures like using Irish for the first line of their speech, but quickly switch to English because otherwise they won’t be understood. Unless you live in the small Gaelthacht region, speaking Irish would be considered odd when you can use English. Speaking Irish can sometimes been seen as a sign of contrariness or just being difficult, as why would you do that we you can just speak English? In most of the country, the only place Irish is spoken is in classrooms. I myself, have only a basic grasp of the language and have never used it outside school.

How did this happen? Like many aspects of Irish society, the English can be blamed. For most of Irish history, the English ruled Ireland, but the language only really began to decline after 1600, when the last of the Gaelic chieftains were defeated. While the Irish language was never banned or persecuted (despite what Republicans may claim), it was discouraged. English was the official language of rule and business, and there was no one to support the Irish language and culture. It was the language English slowly spread, especially in the East and in Dublin, the capital, while Irish remained strong in the West. By 1800, Ireland was roughly balanced between the two languages.

There were two major events that destroyed Irish. The first was the Great Famine (1845-50) which hit the Irish speaking West hardest of all. Out of a population of 8 million, roughly 1 million people died and another million emigrated. From then on emigration became a common part of Irish society as huge numbers of Irish left the country every year, primarily to English speaking countries like Britain and America. This meant that most Irish people needed to speak English in the likely event that they would leave home. Irish would be no good to them in America, English was a necessity. English was the language of the future and of economic opportunity Irish was the past and the language of a poverty stricken island that couldn’t support them.

The second major event was the advent of education. Starting in the 1830s national schools were created across Ireland to educate people through English and Irish was strictly forbidden. While nothing could be done to prevent Irish from being spoken in the home, it was strongly discouraged and shamed. Irish was depicted as an ignorant peasant’s language, whereas English was the language of sophistication and wealth. Poor potato farmers spoke Irish, while rich and successful businessmen spoke English. Other organisations too promoted English, such as the Catholic Church and even Nationalist politicians like Daniel O’Connell. English become the language of the cities while Irish retreated to the most remote and underdeveloped parts of the country.

The state of the Irish language in 1871

The language declined to such an extent that there were fears that it would die out altogether by the end of the 19 th century. However, at this time the Gaelic Revival began, when writers and educated people generally began to promote and use the language more. Poems, stories and plays were written in the language and groups were set up to support and use the language. When Ireland became independent in 1922, the state officially encouraged the language and made knowledge of it mandatory for state jobs. However, the newly independent state was very poor and recovering from a bitter civil war and didn’t have the resources or the national will for a full revival. It couldn’t change the fundamental fact that people needed English, not Irish, to find work and make a living.

However, while government support slowed the decline (compare Northern Ireland for example where the language is practically dead even among Irish Catholics) too much damage had already been done. The vast majority of people already spoke English, so what did you need Irish for? There was still massive emigration (until the 90s) so English was still the language that would get you a job, whereas Irish was the language your grandfather spoke. The base of Irish speakers was small and remote and the output in the language was tiny compared to that in English, especially with the advent of radio and TV.

Languages are strongly subject to economies of scale. Parents taught their children English because that was the language that most people spoke, which caused more people to learn it and so every generation English grew stronger and stronger. Likewise, Irish weakened as less people spoke it because few people spoke it which caused fewer still to speak it. It became more and more confined to elderly speakers which discouraged young people and continued the vicious circle. As less people spoke it, less people used it for art and literature, which gave people less of a reason to learn it. In short, Irish was/is trapped in a vicious downward spiral.

Another major reason for the decline in Irish is people’s not entirely accurate view of languages. One major feature of the English speaking world is that speaking another language is considered a rarity or an unusual skill. Most Irish people (and English speakers generally) don’t believe that they can learn a second language, as if they had some genetic fault. Many people have simply shrugged their shoulders and said “The Irish just aren’t good at learning languages”. Even when parents know Irish, they would often fear to teach it to their children for fear it would confuse the child or learn them slower than their classmates. Linguists have pointed out that bilingualism is possible and achievable, but most people don’t know this. Most people believe that only one language can be used as it would be too messy to have two for work, TV and life etc. This mindset is not as strong nowadays but for a long time it was why parents didn’t teach Irish to their children.

It is a cliché when discussing the Irish language to blame the education system. In fact I’ve never read an article about Irish that didn’t. To an extent this is true, in schools far too much emphasis is put on grammar and written skills and very little on actually speaking. So most students could write a two page essay, but would struggle to hold a conversation. However, it is far too easy to blame the schools. The real problem isn’t the schools it’s the fact that Irish isn’t used outside of the classroom. Irish people love to pay tribute to the language but are not willing to put an effort into keeping it alive. We almost treat it like an antique vase we admire and value it, but keep it locked away except on special occasions. Surprisingly many people are afraid of speaking Irish for fear that they’ll speak it badly.

Irish is seen by many as an old man’s language, as a relic from the past that your grandparents used, but doesn’t have much use today. Many see it as belonging in a museum. A lot of Irish people think that Irish should be spoken by old men in flat caps and old women shawls sitting beside the turf heath in their cottage, chewing on spuds while it rains outside and the pipes can be heard. It takes a lot to convince them that it can be used in a city by people wearing jeans and using the internet. Debates about the language can be bitter with people passionate about the language being suspected of being nationalists and IRA supporters, while their opponents are labelled West Brits and unIrish. Many people don’t mind the language but object to it “being forced down own throats”.

Now a lot of non-Irish people might think it a pity that we Irish would lose such an important part of our heritage (in fact it often seems that Americans like Irish culture more than the Irish themselves do). But while to a foreigner Irish might sound exotic and mysterious, to an Irish person it’s mundane and ordinary. It would be like if someone went to America and got excited to see a McDonalds or was enamoured with hillbilly culture. People take familiar things for granted and most Irish people take Irish and its current state for granted and as normal. To many, it’s always been this way so the thought of changing it never crosses their mind. With English you can speak with hundreds of millions of people around the world, who can you speak Irish with?

Could the language be revived? In theory, yes and there are certainly groups of people who take it up and learn it even if they’re not native speakers and don’t use it every day. There are schools where all subjects are thought through the medium of Irish. We could revive it if we wanted. Most Irish people have some Irish, even if it is very rusty and it takes surprisingly little words to hold a basic conversation. You’d be surprised how much comes back after even a brief refresher course.

So why don’t we? The same reason most political change doesn’t happen. People are aphetic, they have other more important things to worry about, it’s always been this way so how can it change and what difference can only one person make? Honestly, unless some seismic shift occurs that suddenly makes everyone far more nationalist (it would probably have to be on the scale of a war) I don’t see any future for Irish other than to fade away.

Irish people’s attitude to the Irish language is a muddle of contradictions. On the one hand, almost everyone pays lip service to it as a part of our culture and heritage. On the other hand, few people are willing to put any effort in using and maintaining the language. We hate the idea of losing the language but are unwilling to put any effort into saving it. We cling to our Irish identity and resent being confused with the English, but are reluctant to put the effort into actually having a separate culture. Speaking another language takes effort and for most people it’s easier to just speak English, read English books and newspapers and watch English TV. So Irish will continue to fade away without anyone making a conscious decision as it has for the last 200 years.


Why wasn't the Republic of Ireland invaded (by either side) in WW2? - History

Northern Ireland in WWII - Wartime Architecture

This 'pill box' machine gun is at the main entrance to Scarva House just outside Scarva village.

Add a new article
contribute your article to the site

Northern Ireland in WWII - Wartime Architecture

Pill boxes around Northern Ireland

This 'pill box' machine gun is at the main entrance to Scarva House just outside Scarva village. It's probably a certainty that Scarva House was acquired by one of the services but why was this very heavy duty pill box required just here?


Above: Another heavy duty pill box on the Bann riverside just outside Moyallon, two or three miles from Portadown. Why was it placed here? What was it protecting?

Again another huge structure very visible on the left as you drive along the Cranny Road between Bleary and Portadown. There has to be a very good reason that someone chose to build it here.

About a mile before you reach Kilkeel coming from Newcastle this is in a field on your left although this view is from the sea side. Herbert Stevenson, whose field it sits in, tells us that it held a back-up generator which would kick in, to keep nearby radar units going, when the main power supply failed. Herbert, as an eleven year old, watched it being built by local labour. "No diggers then" he pointed out "just shovels and picks and the only machinery they had was the old type of concrete mixer.

As it got higher they built scaffolding ramps and it took two men, one on the handles and one in front, harnessed to the wheelbarrow, to get the barrows of concrete to the top for pouring." But if this was just a back-up generator why the big picture windows looking out to sea? It seems a bit odd. Maybe this place served two purposes?

The remains of a concrete bunker that housed an RAF radar unit which is within Bobby Stevenson's farmyard about four hundred yards from the building above. Bobby is Herbert's brother and he told us how this huge structure was also built by a gang of men armed only with a concrete mixer.. no ready mixed loads in 1940! You can see the earth on top with a good growth of grass but, originally, the whole structure was covered with earth and looked like an upturned saucer, totally banked over in earth. Then a wire meshed netting threaded with camouflage material was stretched over the entire mound. The entrance was through a tunnel which stuck out into their farmyard.

Just off the Leestone road on the way into Kilkeel can be found the classic design of a guardroom with verandah that would have stood at the entrance to a camp and, about a hundred yards away, is this still very serviceable looking air raid shelter. Where was the camp? Who lived there?

YOUR RESPONSES

Robbert - July '08
Your site is very interesting. I love storys of WW2 - I get my grandmother to tell me them everytime I'm with her. We live in a small village called Eden just outside of Carrickfergus and along the beach at the Fort Road there is an old army base and pill boxes that were used the nights of the Belfast Blitz.
Walking around the place I've collected many things and when I was a young boy I dug up many bullet shells and my grandfather had an old american helmet he got when the war was over and the soldiers left.

Marie Pudlo - Feb '08
I am new to this website and absolutely delighted to have found it as I was a young girl living in Aghadowey during WW11.
Are you familiar with the aerdrome in Mullaghmore,Aghadowey, Co. Derry? There are still existing runways and many buildings including air raid shelters. Our school was razed to build the aerdrome so my genertion was educated in an American built hut erected near by. Our home and several others were also demolished so the families had to find new housing. One end of this camp was designed to accommodate the WAFFS and we as little girls thought they were the most glamorous ladies right out of Hollywood.

Maura Burke - Dec '06
I am fascinated by your site - my mother lived on a farm in Newtownhamilton outside Newry, Northern Ireland, during the war and she can't remember the war having any affect on her every day life. Could anyone tell me if anything significant happened around that area - or is my mother correct and the war had no affect on people in that area?

Peter Paul Rea - Oct '06
One of the Pill Boxes built in 1940 at Newtownards Airport, On the Sea Bank has been listed and is retained in its present condition.

Outside Donaghadee the remains of a Road Block on the Peninsular Block are visible, One on either side of the road.

The Battle HQ's at Newtownards Airport was demolished in the 1980s and the E-Pens at Kirkstown Airfield have been badly damaged within the past 3 years.

Around Newtownards, some of the TYPE a Pillboxes remain.

John W. Dunbar - June '06
There are several small buildings at an area called Portmon near the Giants Causeway which was an army camp during WWII there were American, Belgian, and probably british soldiers at this camp. I remember them as I grew up near the village of Lisnagunagh and remember the gunfire and the flares on night excercises. When I was a teenager I roamed all over this area and remember reading the names soldiers had written on the walls of the buildings I also carried home spent bullets and anti tank shells and we used them for door stops. These were all red brick buildings and I don't know if they are still standing as I have lived in toronto canada for the last 40 years and have never gone back up there. This area is accessible by a road that was built during the war from the village of Carrowreagh but it may be a private road today also it had a gate as there were sheep grazing on the land.

Brian Taggart - April '06
There are numerous buildings on the old airfield at Toomebridge Co Antrim, but I'm sure you know of these ?

Diane Nickerson Bures - January '06
I have nothing of value to contribute to your site, but I just learned of the US military presence in Ireland during WW II from you, and am delighted. My grandmother emigrated from Ireland, and her son, my Father was in the Coast Guard during WW II. I'm mighty proud of my Irish genes. My regret is, that I wasn't aware of this site when I visited Ireland with my younger son in 2000, but as General MacArthur said, "I shall return," and soon I hope. I must get on with my day now, but I shall return to your site often to learn more. Thank you, and to all who've contributed to your site.

Glyn - January '06
As far as I know it was the USAF who were in Kilkeel during WW2. They had a major airbase at Cranfield and in the 60's a lot more of the old buildings and runways were still visible. I believe that most of the runways may still be there but would be overgrown by now.

B Burns - October '05
I grew up in Scarva during WW2, and watched the 'Pill Boxes' being built, German invasion was expected through the Republic of Ireland, hence all the' Pill Boxes' throughout N Ireland.

The land attached to 'Scarva House' was used as a Petrol Depot during WW2. Many's the time a few cans would fall off the trucks as they came over that bridge from the railway. The people with cars would dash out, lift the drain covers put containers down into the hole and catch whatever petrol they could.

Glenn Walsh - April '05
The 'air raid shelter' outside Kilkeel is the transmitter or receiver block for a Chain Home WWII radar station. The blockhouse at Stevenson's farm is probably the complimentary installation as the transmitter and receiver had to located some distance apart so they didn't interfere with one another. The back up generator was stored in the Standby Set House, but the one shown is very unusual in having windows.

There were a number of these stations including one at Ballywalter and another at Articlave which was still in use after the war. The most interesting though is above Torr Head and was part of the short-lived 1950s ROTOR early warning radar programme.

James O'Neill, Defence Heritage Project Co-ordinator:
The pillboxes along the Bann are part of a series of 9 stop-lines built during 1940 as a system of defence for N.Ireland. The Scarva defences are part of the Lough Neagh-Carlingford Lough line using the Bann and the Newry Canal as the main obstacle, pill boxes being used to cover the crossing points. Similar pillboxes (covering crossing points) can be seen at Gilford and Dynes Bridge. In total the NI Defence Heritage Project has located 64 pillboxes remaining in N.Ireland but this list is being continually added to.

Mr JF Dick - April 04
The D.O.E. defence Heritage project has listed 350+ sites
These are recorded and photographed.
the info should be available from the D.O.E

Gerry Armour - 1 May 2004
There is a small bomb shelter in Downpartick at the top of Knocknashinna Rd. There is a tower in a field. It's beside it on Downpatrick golf course. They sealed it up because kids were going down in to it and the lid was heavy and I think some hurt themselves.

Are there any you know about?

If there are any pill boxes or similar wartime structures around your area we'd be grateful for your input.

You can add your thoughts directly to the site, it's a very quick and simple process.


Eamon De Valera - the Irish Machiavelli who destroyed Michael Collins

I was visiting my first cousin Jerry Bartley in Dublin in June 1975 when he suggested that I might want to attend a gathering of the John McCormack Society at the Gresham Hotel in O’Connell Street. I’ve never been a fan of the great tenor (he can be seen sometimes on Turner Classic Movies in "Song o’ My Heart"), so I gently declined. “Too bad,” said Jerry, “I thought you might want to meet the President.”

Back then, the only “President” that registered in Ireland was the Long Fellow, Eamon de Valera, who had either been Taoiseach or President of Ireland, it seemed, ever since there had been an Irish state. Jerry knew my keen interest in Irish revolutionary history and he was right—this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I got to the auditorium in the Gresham and wisely took a seat on the aisle.

At the intermission, de Valera’s aide announced that the President wasn’t feeling well and that he was going to leave. What happened next has stuck in my brain ever since. As he walked down the aisle he extended both of his hands to the side—not unlike the Virgin Mary atop the globe with serpent underfoot—and allowed people to touch him. As he came to me I took his hand and said, “How are you, Mr. President?” He mutely nodded to me and moved on. Even at 92, he had an imposing physical presence—he towered over me—which must have made him an outsized figure to friend and foe alike. Just two months after our brief meeting he was dead.

What remains with me to this day is de Valera’s exit. It was the exit of a master politician, a man who knew his constituency and understood his place in history. Basically, he understood that he was a living symbol of Ireland’s struggle for independence.

Read more

At this time Michael Collins had been dead for 53 years and was only beginning to reemerge as a national hero. Margery Forester’s biography "Michael Collins: The Lost Leader" had just been published and slowly Collins—who had been almost airbrushed out of Irish history by de Valera and his party in much the same way the Kremlin politburo under Stalin removed undesirables from official photos—was coming back to life, perhaps even bigger and more colorful than he ever was.

But de Valera’s handshake reminded me that what he really was—a politician. In comparison Collins was an elite revolutionary first, then a politician. Conversely, de Valera was a politician first, then a revolutionary who, after 1916, only had a distant relationship with what the salaciousness of urban guerrilla warfare—as designed by Michael Collins in his absence—was really like.

De Valera and “The Emergency”

As someone who has written two novels about Collins—"The 13th Apostle" and "Terrible Angel"—I wanted to know what made de Valera tick. Unlike other Collins loyalists, I do not find fault with everything Dev did while in office. I think some of the things he did in separating the Irish Free State from British hegemony were called for, including the revamping of the government in 1937.

Many find his neutrality during Ireland’s “Emergency” (everywhere else known as World War II) hard to fathom. I don’t. The British had been lining up Irish revolutionaries for centuries and shooting them. De Valera had been condemned to death in 1916 and was only reprieved by his natural born American citizenship. He had every right to hold a grudge against the British—a very Irish trait! Although “neutral” during the war, de Valera did come to the aid of Belfast when it was bombed (by sending the Dublin Fire Brigade) and he did remind Nazi Germany that Northern Ireland, under the Irish constitution, was a de facto part of the Irish Free State, thus stopping the bombing.

He returned Allied fliers downed in Ireland while interning German ones. He also kept a close eye on the German diplomatic delegation to make sure they were not plotting espionage from Ireland. The one giant stain on this neutral policy in favor of the Allies was an odd one—he traveled to the German legation on Northumberland Road to express his condolences on the death of Adolf Hitler. Oddly enough, he did not extend the same courtesy for President Roosevelt, who had died three weeks earlier.

His biggest political fault may have been his narcissism—he would not leave. After the war he remained on as either Taoiseach or leader of his party until 1959, blocking younger members, including Seán Lemass, who, finally, became Taoiseach in 1959 at the age of 60 (they had to pack de Valera off to Áras an Uachtaráin as the new president to get him out of the Fianna Fáil leadership).

The Irish Machiavelli

But as a student of Collins, the three things that disturb me most about de Valera are his dealings with Collins between 1919 and 1922. The first Dáil met at the Mansion House in Dublin on January 21, 1919. At that meeting de Valera was recorded as “fé ghlas ag Gallaibh”—“imprisoned by the foreign enemy.” Michael Collins was not there that day either. He was in England planning de Valera’s escape from Lincoln Gaol, which he pulled off on February 4, 1919. Back in Dublin (the embarrassed British did not pursue him at this time) Dev was elected Príomh Aire (First Minister or Prime Minister) of the Dáil.

De Valera spent an inordinate amount of time in prison during the War of Independence (in 1918 he ignored Collins’ warning and allowed himself to be arrested by the British thus landing in Lincoln Gaol). While in prison he apparently came under the influence of Niccolò Machiavelli’s "The Prince," which might be called a handbook for the ruthless passive-aggressive politician.

The Random House College Dictionary defines Machiavellian “as being or acting in accordance with the principles of government analyzed in Machiavelli’s treatise, 'The Prince' (1513), in which political expediency is placed above morality characterized by unscrupulous cunning, deception or dishonesty.” The only thing missing in this dictionary definition is a picture of Richard Nixon, Machiavelli’s bastard love child.

Read more

According to de Valera’s highly-prejudiced (in favor of Collins) biographer Tim Pat Coogan, Dev once said to Richard Mulcahy, Chief of Staff of the IRA, who was very close to Collins, “You are a young man going in for politics. I will give you two pieces of advice—study economics and read 'The Prince.'” Mulcahy subsequently did read the book but found it “a handbook for teddy-boys. A way for exerting gangsterism on a part of Italy.”

The First Abdication—The Star-Spangled Retreat

I often refer to de Valera’s “Abdications.” The first occurred on May 1919 when he left Ireland for America, not to return for 20 months. At this point, the war was beginning to heat up as the IRA began to confront the British and Collins’ Squad (“The Twelve Apostles”) was on the verge of putting the heat on the “G-Men,” the intelligence agents of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). I cannot think of similar situations where a revolutionary leader left his country voluntarily during wartime. It’s as if George Washington had said in 1776: “I’ll see you guys in a couple of years.”

Other revolutionaries may have been deported or forced to flee, but de Valera did this on his own, supposedly to bring Ireland’s message to the world and raise money for the cause. While abroad, de Valera’s vacuum would be more than ably filled by the Minister for Finance, Michael Collins.

During this period (May 1919-December 1920) the war was essentially won by Collins and his men. Collins once famously said “Whoever controls Dublin controls Ireland” and he proved this true by terrorizing the British so much that they introduced the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries to control the Irish population. The final blow was on Bloody Sunday, November 21, 1920, when the Squad assassinated 14 British intelligence officers, terminating much of the British control of Dublin, and thus Ireland.

While in America de Valera’s deviousness manifested itself in the chasms he caused among the American Fenians. John Devoy, leader of Clan na Gael, came to despise him and his Machiavellian ways. Terry Golway in his biography of Devoy wrote: “Devoy would later write that had it been up to him, he’d have had de Valera shot rather than waste the government’s time and money with a mere prison sentence.”

De Valera Returns from America

On December 23, 1920—one month and two days after Bloody Sunday—de Valera arrived back in Dublin. He was greeted by Tom Cullen and Batt O’Connor, two of Collins’ closest friends, at the boat. De Valera asked how things were going. “Great,” gushed Cullen. “The Big Fellow is leading us and everything is going marvelous.”

“Big Fellow,” de Valera huffed, “We’ll see who’s the Big Fellow!” It was apparent that Eamon de Valera did not return to Ireland to play second fiddle to Michael Collins.

It was during this period (December 1920-July 1921) that the Irish and English tried to figure out how to get out of the quagmire that had become Ireland. De Valera quickly downsized Collins with the help of Cathal Brugha and Austin Stack. Collins’ stark tongue and brutal efficiency had been felt by both of them during de Valera’s absence. Collins had shamelessly poached Brugha’s portfolio as the Minister for Defence and had mocked Stack’s work at Home Affairs. Now it was payback time.

Collins and de Valera also differed on how the war was to proceed. Soon after he returned from America de Valera told Mulcahy “You are going too fast. This odd shooting of a policeman here and there is having a very bad effect, from the propaganda point of view, on us in America. What we want is, one good battle about once a month with about 500 men on each side.”

Collins was incensed. While he and his men had put their lives on the line every day, sleeping in a different bed every night, this is the thanks he got from someone who had been living it up at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City for the past two years.

Subsequently, De Valera finally got his “one good battle.” Dev decided to burn down the Customs House in May 1921. Collins was against it and tried to protect his men and his Squad from participating in it as much as he could. It was obvious that de Valera didn’t understand guerrilla warfare. The Customs House burned, but over 100 volunteers were apprehended. Collins knew his army was close to elimination.

Read more

Ironically, the British misjudged their victory. They did not know that they had delivered a near fatal death blow to the Dublin IRA and now had them on the ropes. They wrongly concluded that this audacious act proved that the IRA was strong and far from defeated. Both de Valera and the British got it wrong—and in the fog of war, King George V brokered a truce within two months. This is one of the few times in history where two wrongs made a right!

The Second Abdication, the Treaty: “We Must Have Scapegoats”

In July de Valera went to London to meet British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. It became apparent fairly quickly how the whole scenario would play out. Two words were thrown about: Saorstat (Free State) and Phoblacht (Republic). Lloyd George liked Saorstat. He hated Phoblacht. De Valera knew exactly where he stood as he headed back to Dublin.

Back in Dublin, the Machiavellian maneuverings began in the late summer. De Valera had no intention of getting himself stuck in this no-win situation. He hemmed-and-hawed trying to get himself out of the mess he found himself in. He knew he could not get a Republic from Lloyd George. If he went to London he knew the best he could hope for was a Free State with dominion status, such as Canada. He knew the hardcore Republicans would be outraged and would fry him.

Some of Dev’s excuses are classic. One was that as the “President” of Ireland—a country that did not exist in reality—he was head-of-state and could not negotiate with Lloyd George, who was the mere Prime Minister of Great Britain, and not the head-of-state (the King was).

All his maneuvering finally saw Michael Collins, against his will, being sent in de Valera’s stead to work with the leader of the delegation, Arthur Griffith. “To me, the task is a loathsome one,” Collins wrote. “I go in the spirit of a soldier who acts against his best judgment at the orders of his superior.” According to Coogan’s biography, de Valera was heard commenting about the plenipotentiaries: “We must have scapegoats.”

Collins was suspicious from the start. He did not stay with the Irish delegation—he figured that Erskine Childers, the secretary of the delegation, was Dev’s in-house spy—so he set up his own household with the help of many of his intelligence agents at #3 Crow Street. De Valera expected Collins to fail—and must have been shocked when he brought an Irish Free State back with him from London.

Collins knew that he was in an impossible situation and commented on the morning of December 6, 1921, the day that the Treaty was signed, that he had signed his “actual death warrant.” The best way I can describe de Valera-Collins-Treaty triangle is crude, yet true: “The second mouse gets the cheese.” Collins found himself stuck in de Valera’s excellent Machiavellian mousetrap while the “Long ’Hoor”—as Collins now referred to Dev—nibbled at the cheese.

The Third Abdication—Civil War

In early 1922 the Dáil began the debate on the Treaty. De Valera proved himself to be an excellent parliamentarian—much to the chagrin and frustration of Collins who declared to the Dáil: “We will have no Tammany Hall methods here. Whether you are for the Treaty or whether you are against it, fight without Tammany Hall methods. We will not have them.”

It was at this point that de Valera introduced what Alfred Hitchcock called in his films a “MacGuffin”: something that seems essential to the plot, but, in reality, has nothing important to do with the final outcome. De Valera’s MacGuffin was the Oath of Allegiance to the King.

Because of the Oath he and his followers could never, ever, vote for the Treaty. In "Michael Collins Own Story" by Hayden Talbot—which was supposed to be Collins’ autobiography but he died before it was published—Collins says of the controversy surrounding the Oath: “…No one but a factionist, looking for means of making mischief, would have thought it worthwhile to have risked wrecking the Treaty for.”

Everyone knew, including de Valera, that if the Treaty was not approved the British would rush troops into Ireland as never before and there would be a war that the IRA could never win. “I am against this Treaty,” said de Valera, “not because I am a man of war but because I am a man of peace.”

Not getting their way, de Valera and cohorts like Cathal Brugha and the Countess Markievicz left the Dáil in a huff. The Dáil approved the Treaty, as did the Irish people in an election on June 16, 1922. De Valera was out of the picture Arthur Griffith was now the new President of the Dáil and Michael Collins ran the new National Army as the anti-Treaty forces began their offensive. The “man of peace” had facilitated the Irish Civil War.

Read more

If de Valera had remained in the government as the leader of the loyal opposition much of the angst and violence on both sides may have been avoided and this filthy war might have never happened. But he didn’t and the split in the country lasted for the rest of the 20th century. In fact, de Valera’s biographer Tim Pat Coogan wrote: “His [De Valera’s] behavior after the Treaty was signed was irresponsible and caused lasting damage to his colleagues and to Ireland.”

How De Valera’s Abdications Made Ireland—and his Political Career

The irony of de Valera’s three abdications is that they led to the establishment of what today is the Republic of Ireland:

  • - When he left Ireland in May 1919 he delegated the war to Collins who, through his intelligence system and intimidation, beat the British
  • - By not going to London to lead the negotiations for the Treaty—and by sending Collins—he got the nation he tried to disown in the Dáil debates
  • - By abdicating his responsibility as the loyal opposition and leaving the Dáil he guaranteed the passage of the Treaty not only in the Dáil but also at the ballot box. If the Treaty had been defeated, de Valera would not have had a country to eventually lead and his political career would have been altered tremendously or terminated
  • - Looking back at Dev’s maneuverings it brings to mind one of the great lines of Irish politics. Oliver St. John Gogarty, a great friend of Collins and Griffith and a long-time foe of de Valera, once said of the Long Fellow: “Every time he contradicts himself—he’s right!”
  • - De Valera left the government in 1922, but he would return again as a TD in 1926 and in one of the great political hypocrisies of the 20th century took the Oath of Allegiance to the King in order to take his seat in the Dáil. (In 1933, as President, he abolished the Oath.) Perhaps de Valera was following one of the principals of his hero Machiavelli: “A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.”

I think it can be safely stated that with Collins in the political picture de Valera may not have had the political career he did. De Valera most certainly would have been challenged by Collins at every turn and if there was ever a man who could cut de Valera down to political-size, it was the quick-thinking and resourceful Collins.

You can just imagine Dev in the Dáil trying to defend his failing policies under blistering questions from Collins. It would have been great political theater, but it was not to be. Once again you can see the hand of Niccolò Machiavelli in de Valera’s maneuverings around Collins: “Men ought either to be indulged or utterly destroyed, for if you merely offend them they take vengeance, but if you injure them greatly they are unable to retaliate, so that the injury done to a man ought to be such that vengeance cannot be feared.”

In the End, de Valera Comes Clean

There were many petty things done to the memory of Michael Collins by de Valera. He even gave the Collins family a hard time when they wanted to erect a headstone at his grave in Glasnevin Cemetery in 1939. De Valera personally supervised the circumstances surrounding the placing of the Celtic cross marker and would allow neither family (except for Collins’ brother, Johnny) nor press to attend. “With a final Machiavellian touch,” Coogan wrote, “to cover himself against a charge of pettiness at having the Prime Minister of the country interest himself in such a matter on the eve of a new world war, he describes himself as ‘acting Minister for Finance.’ ”

It seems that it wasn’t until the advanced old age that de Valera came to acknowledge that Collins had contributed greatly to the creation of the Republic. In 1966 President de Valera was asked to contribute to an educational foundation named for Collins that would grant scholarships to deserving young men and women. De Valera declined to donate, but went on to state: “It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time history will record the greatness of Michael Collins and it will be recorded at my expense.”

* Dermot McEvoy is the author of the The 13th Apostle: A Novel of a Dublin Family, Michael Collins, and the Irish Uprising and Irish Miscellany (Skyhorse Publishing). He may be reached at [email protected] Follow him at www.dermotmcevoy.com. Follow The 13th Apostle on Facebook at www.facebook.com/13thApostleMcEvoy.

Sign up to IrishCentral's newsletter to stay up-to-date with everything Irish!


When Did the Vietnam War End?

In January 1973, the United States and North Vietnam concluded a final peace agreement, ending open hostilities between the two nations. War between North and South Vietnam continued, however, until April 30, 1975, when DRV forces captured Saigon, renaming it Ho Chi Minh City (Ho himself died in 1969).

More than two decades of violent conflict had inflicted a devastating toll on Vietnam’s population: After years of warfare, an estimated 2 million Vietnamese were killed, while 3 million were wounded and another 12 million became refugees. Warfare had demolished the country’s infrastructure and economy, and reconstruction proceeded slowly.

In 1976, Vietnam was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, though sporadic violence continued over the next 15 years, including conflicts with neighboring China and Cambodia. Under a broad free market policy put in place in 1986, the economy began to improve, boosted by oil export revenues and an influx of foreign capital. Trade and diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the U.S. resumed in the 1990s.

In the United States, the effects of the Vietnam War would linger long after the last troops returned home in 1973. The nation spent more than $120 billion on the conflict in Vietnam from 1965-73 this massive spending led to widespread inflation, exacerbated by a worldwide oil crisis in 1973 and skyrocketing fuel prices.