June 24, 2002
Fact-Checking My Own Ass, Twenty Years Later

I've tracked down the article on Ireland that I referred to in this post two days ago. The complete reference is: Herb Greer, "Ulster: In the Empty House of the Stare", Commentary 73.1 (January, 1982), 55-64. Here are the pertinent passages (pages 59-60):

After Britain gave up its Irish port facilities in 1938, De Valera kept his government officially neutral in the war against the Axis powers. There were accusations that he allowed the Germans to use the Irish coast as a haven for submarine action against Allied shipping, but these were never proved. Certainly he did permit the German representative in Dublin to send weather reports to the Luftwaffe, and these helped in the bombing of Britain and Ulster. Like Joseph Kennedy, the American Ambassador to Britain, De Valera did what he could to keep the United States out of the war. When his efforts failed, he protested at the presence of American troops in Ulster as an "infringement of Irish sovereignty." No such protest was made after the heavy German air attacks on Belfast.

As late as 1944, the American State Department said bluntly: "Despite the declared desire of the Irish government that its neutrality should not operate in favor of either of the belligerents, it has in fact operated and continues to operate in favor of the Axis powers." Upon learning of the death of Hitler, De Valera called upon the Nazi minister in Dublin to express sympathy, insisting loftily that this was a neutral act of protocol. As the New York Times put it: "Considering the character of the man for whom he was expressing grief [and considering that 50,000 Southern Irishmen had volunteered for service in the British forces] . . . there [was] obviously something wrong with the protocol, the neutrality, or Mr. De Valera."

(I seem to have forgotten to xerox the right page at the library, but Churchill estimated that at least 4,000 British sailors died because of the refusal of Irish bases.)

I had forgotten the weather reports, but the rest is pretty much as I recalled -- not bad for twenty years later. One thing was worse than I remembered it: De Valera didn't just send condolences to the German embassy, he delivered them himself. And I had forgotten that Britain had had naval bases on the west coast of Ireland until 1938, which makes the refusal of air bases in 1939 and 1940 that much more shameful.

Perhaps I should say that I mention all this not to trash the Irish people or the nation of Eire, which behaved no worse than other neutral countries, but (a) to back up Steven Den Beste's argument that neutrality in a war between civilization and barbarism is not an admirable thing, and (b) to illustrate how traditional hatreds and "enemy of my enemy" attitudes can push people to do incredibly stupid and short-sighted things. After all, if Britain had surrendered to the Nazis, Ireland would have received its gauleiter within a week or two.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 24, 2002 09:15 PM

Okay, I'm embarassed to admit it, but I just don't know what a "gauleiter" is, and I can't find it in the two dictionaries I have handy. (Wish I knew what I did with my old Webster's Unabridged.)

Posted by: Dean Esmay on June 25, 2002 08:41 PM

Sorry about the jargon. It's not an English word.

Nazi conquests were divided up into provinces, each one called a "Gau". "Leiter" is German for 'leader' (don't ask me how it's different from 'führer'), so a 'gauleiter' was the governor (or 'governor general') of a conquered country or region. One of the Nazi leaders tried at Nuremberg (and then hanged) was Hans Frank, gauleiter of Poland (pictured here). That's where I first heard the word. Mentioning a hypothetical 'gauleiter of Ireland' seemed a good way to underline the horrors that Ireland narrowly missed. World War II was a close-run thing, and the Allies might very easily have lost.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on June 25, 2002 09:10 PM

I wonder how many of those IRA-supporting Irish-Americans will even acknowledge the fact that their dear old Ireland was a Nazi-loving collaborator? Of course there isn't much difference between the dictatorship of the Nazis and the kind of Marxist dictatorship the IRA would love to impose. Bah, piss on the green-wearing dimwits.

Posted by: Dave Crawford on June 29, 2002 01:59 AM

I agree with Dave's sentiments re: the IRA, but Ireland is currently the pariah of the EU becuase of their tax-cutting, high-growth capitalism. See this article for a full rundown on the new Ireland.

Posted by: timekeeper on June 29, 2002 09:24 PM

There's always been more than a whiff of fascism in Irish nationalism. The 'Blood and Soil' elements of the Fenian mythology are very strong. Refusing naval facilities to the Allies was so aggressively neutral, if you will, that it was tantamount to an act of war. It is hard to imagine the horror of the Battle of the Atlantic: if a U-boat wolf pack penetrated a convoy, then a thousand or more sailors and soldiers dead in the waters of the North Atlantic was not unusual. Great Britain was within weeks of capitulation at one point. Would Ireland's neutrality have saved it then? Hardly.

The arch-nationalist party Sinn Fein is carrying on in this reprehensible fashion today. Quite apart from the fact that Sinn Fein is a cover group for one of the most repellent terrorist organisations ever - the IRA - the current political core of the party is based around a Maoist revolutionary ethos, rather akin to the Sendero Luminoso in Peru.

Sadly, one of the leading lights behind the otherwise splendid rejection of the Nice Treaty was SF, playing its Little Irisher card for all it was worth. Sinn Fein is Gaelic for 'Ourselves Alone'.

Underneath the fey Irishry of Yeats and Co. lie some very nasty sentiments indeed.

Posted by: David Gillies on July 1, 2002 05:25 PM

Your quotes are interesting. It might be worth adding that Sinn Fein/IRA is now the only fascist cabal in Europe actually murdering, beating, and torturing people, and hounding them out of their homes into exile. And that the reason this continues as it does is nothing more nor less than the rank political cowardice of the British and Irish governments. Since 9/11 the American government's attitude toward terrorism is Ulster has grown a bit less tolerant.

Posted by: Thescribe101 on October 7, 2002 11:10 AM