De Valera ordered top secret war files destroyed
Published 26/11/2008 | 00:00
OFFICIALS burned hundreds of secret files on the orders of Taoiseach Eamon de Valera as panic grew in Ireland over a possible Nazi invasion during World War II.
In a separate move, two Irish diplomats travelled to London to seek British help but made the bizarre decision to only request military help once German forces had actually landed on Irish soil.
The remarkable disclosures are made in a book of declassified documents, revealed for the first time last night by Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin with former Foreign Affairs Ministers Dr Garret FitzGerald and Michael Kenn-edy in attendance.
The volume, published by the Royal Irish Academy, deals with the 17 months at the start of World War II as Europe crumbled before the Nazi onslaught. The files in 'Documents in Irish Foreign Policy -- Volume VI -- 1939-1941' reveal a mood of continual crisis.
Details of sensitive defence cooperation talks in mid-1940 are included in the papers, which can also be accessed online. The papers shed light on a period when Ireland feared a German invasion while at the same time feeling unable to call on British help.
At the height of scares about a Nazi invasion, Taoiseach De Valera ordered the widespread destruction of top secret files.
Hundreds of files held under lock and key in the office of the secretary of the Department of External Affairs were earmarked for destruction in Dublin on May 25, 1940.
The documents involved included details of passport and visa applications, naturalisation of German nationals as Irish citizens, and the identity of Germans living here.
Also burnt were files on British people here and on various aspects of diplomatic relations with Britain and the Commonwealth -- including the 1937 purchases of guns and ammunition from Britain -- and a series on the coronation of King George VI.
Also into the fire went documents on General Eoin O'Duffy's Blueshirts and the Irish Brigade's involvement in the Spanish civil war.
Bombing in Berlin completely wiped out files held by the Irish embassy there including all papers detailing Irish relations with Hitler's regime from 1938 onwards.
It also destroyed most reports from Ireland's controversial "minister plenipotentiary" in the Reich capital, Charles Bewley, who was recalled in 1939 after he had "gone native". Bewley was notorious for his anti-Semitic views and his admiration of the Nazis.
Irish diplomats were shocked by Germany's contempt for the neutrality of countries like Holland and Belgium and, fearing Ireland would be next, De Valera sent out secret feelers to Britain.
At May 23 and 24 London meetings, Joseph Walshe, secretary of the Department of External Affairs and Colonel Liam Archer, then head of Irish Army intelligence, blocked a British request to station forces in Ireland in advance of a possible invasion.
Walshe said there would be no public support for such a move but once it "became apparent to the Irish people that an act of aggression had taken place against Ireland the whole attitude of the Irish people would change and they would gladly welcome support from British troops".
Britain was worried about IRA support for Germany but was reassured "a few disturbances" would give the State an opportunity "to crush finally the organisation".
The meetings agreed close communications cooperation, a special code and an early warning system of approaching German aircraft.
In other documents, it is revealed that attempts by the Nazis to fly in three extra diplomats -- who the Government suspected were spies -- via Shannon airport during World War II led to a major behind-the-scenes row.
Taoiseach Eamon de Valera warned Hitler's envoy in Dublin, Edouard Hempel, to tell Berlin to withdraw the request and, if Berlin persisted, it would be refused."
Tensions heightened as the possibility of Germany using Dublin's refusal as a pretext for an invasion increased," says the documents.
Ireland also wanted compensation for German bombings. In January 1941, five Luftwaffe planes dropped bombs on the Curragh, Terenure, Borris and Drogheda killing three.In 1940 German planes had dropped bombs in Wexford killing three.
Bombs were also dropped near Waterford Harbour and Bannow Bay and on Ballymitty and Duncormick.