Melbourne Ph.D. student derides Sunday Times and Irish Independent for completely misquoting him in order to make de Valera look like a Nazi sympathiser.
A documentary called Ireland’s Nazis, which is co-produced by RTÉ and the History Channel, attempts to make a case that Ireland harboured Nazi war criminals. There is a fairly interesting discussion about it here, where there is a fair amount of scepticism displayed.
There are many issues at play here, as there often are surrounding the portrayal of Irish history, and it would be difficult to discuss them all at once.
This Time Magazine article is interesting in order to gauge de Valera’s real, working attitude to fascism. De Valera urged the League of Nations to defend the Abysinnians with arms, and was even prepared to have Irish soldiers under English command for the cause. He was influential in ensuring that Haile Selassie was able to address the League Assembly to make his personal appeal, which the League rejected. Many think that the League’s decision not to pursue military sanctions against Italy made war in Europe inevitable.
As the delegates hastily left Geneva for their home capitals, most privately agreed that by far the best speech of the week had been made by the Irish Free State’s Eamon de Valera and that these were his most trenchant words: “If the great powers of Europe would only meet now in that peace conference which will have to he held after Europe has once again been drenched in blood; if they would be prepared to make now, in advance, only a tithe of the sacrifice each of them would have to make when war was begun, the terrible menace which threatens us all today could be warded off. “The problems that distract Europe today should not be left for soldiers to decide … They should be tackled now by the statesmen.”
Ireland withdrew from the League of Nations some time after the Abysinnian débacle, with de Valera explaining that in the forthcoming conflict, small countries must endeavour to protect themselves, as larger nations would certainly not respect their rights or keep their promises. This was the origin of Ireland’s neutrality during the Second World War as a strategic decision.
De Valera publically stated his opposition to both Communism and Nazism. He also opposed and defeated a fascist movement in Ireland, making no attempt to conciliate its leaders. He stated Ireland’s intention to oppose German forces with arms in the event of invasion, and plans were drawn up with army leaders, although weapons were short due to an embargo by England and America. SOE, the arm of British intelligence which organised sabotage operations in Europe, and which was inspired by the 1919-1921 era IRA, proposed that they should work with the Irish government on a plan to oppose the German forces. Churchill vetoed it, and MI6 drew up a report on de Valera to try and convince the British cabinet that that Ireland would be brought into the war (and hence its ports made available to England) if he was overthrown. Yet among the massaged facts, falsehoods and half-truths in the report – propaganda should always contain at least a grain of truth – there is no attempt to say that de Valera actually had any sympathy with the German cause.
I predicted about two years ago that very soon P.R. would have Ireland as collaborating with the Nazis, just as the War of Independence has been dubbed a sectarian and terrorist conflict by a certain newspaper group and a handful of soundbyte-spouting academics. It should be noted by advocates of fairness that those who seek to discredit Ireland’s role in both conflicts have mirrored the propaganda of those who sought Ireland’s defeat. I would also point to the fact that that Ireland’s Nazis is a part of the same series that also contained a documentary about Eoin O’Duffy which sought to rationalise his fascism.