Eichmann would get a statue if he'd had an Irish grandmother
Published 10/07/2009 | 00:00
It never entered my silly little head that anyone in authority would permit the re-erection of a statue to Sean Russell in Fairview Park, after the original was vandalised four years ago.
And equally, in my utter ignorance of the unrepentant attitude of republicans towards their history and their heroes, I assumed that on this occasion, they would let bygones be bygones.
After all, Sean Russell was a Nazi collaborator, who died in a German submarine on his way to cause mayhem in Ireland in 1940.
The statue to him was unveiled in September 1951, when nationalist mythology, a hubristic neutralism, and a profound equivalence towards the Third Reich, were politically dominant in the grisly lunatic asylum that Ireland had become. Dublin Corporation even donated the land for the statue.
And frankly, you could have erected anything in those days, as long as it was anti-British.
Adolf Eichmann would have got a little statue, if someone could have shown he had an Irish grandmother.
For Ireland had turned its back on the world, and was sinking into an impoverished and heathen stupor, in which the primary government activity was to keep out foreign goods and foreign books: some 5,000 titles had been banned by the publications' censors up to 1954.
This was an Ireland which also gave sanctuary to Nazi war criminals, so a mere statue to one of the Third Reich's most dedicated Irish stooges was merely another part of the diseased isolationist culture of the time.
Over half a century on, and Ireland has changed more totally than it is possible to describe. On Sunday, the President will honour the Irish dead of the two world wars, who for the most part served with the British.
Most particularly this Sunday, minds will go back to that summer 70 years ago, before most of us were born, when Hitler's plans to conquer and subjugate Poland were taking final shape.
Over the next six years, thousands of Irish volunteers were to die opposing him. Just one -- Sean Russell -- died in his service. Yet he is the only Irish victim of the Second World War to have a statue in his honour in Dublin. For having earlier offered his services to the Abwehr, German intelligence, in February 1939, with the outbreak of war, he hurried from America to Germany to take his place in the Nazi battleline. Only a perforated ulcer prevented him doing a sovereign service to the Fuehrer.
You can present Russell's role in many lights.
You can say that he was caught up in the republican mood of the time. You can say that he was enraged at the treatment of nationalists in the North. You can say that many decent people sympathised with the IRA's objectives. All true. Comparable justifications can be offered for activists from different nationalist minorities in mainland Europe who sided with Hitler. The fact is that he -- and they -- took the side of the man who led Europe into a Dark Age unprecedented in history.
To raise a statue to such a collaborator with an absolutist evil is self-preening neutralism at its most toxic.
From 1970 on, with the start of the Troubles, Sinn Fein held an annual commemorative rally at the Sean Russell statue. This has continued ever since, even with Sinn Fein's transformation into a largely constitutional party in the European parliament.
This not merely made Dublin the only capital in the EU with a statue to a Nazi collaborator, but it made the Shinners the only party in the parliament to honour such a man. That they were able to get away with this was largely due to the compliance of other Irish parties in the European parliament, who never drew the attention of our fellow Europeans to the presence in their midst of this strange, strange group, who annually paid homage to Ireland's own Quisling.
Four years ago, "vandals" beheaded the statue, to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I disagree with that act. It is not up to individuals to decide on public statuary. But at least this deed gave Dublin City Council the opportunity to abolish from view a revolting insult to the millions of victims of the Holocaust.
Instead, the National Grave Association has been allowed to erect a new bronze statue, and it was this which was daubed with anti-Nazi graffiti the other day.
So, how did a statue to a traitor to Ireland, and an ally of the Third Reich, come to be erected as we approach the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War? Who approved this in Dublin City Council?
And what is the prevailing aesthetic which can rule that the destroyers of Nelson's Pillar in Dublin may permanently affect the streetscape of the capital, but that a statue to a Nazi fellow traveller should be restored?
I trust that all EU ambassadors to this country report back to their governments that Dublin has just raised a statue to a Nazi traitor. Maybe they will do what our own political class, either through cowardice or inertia, has failed to do -- namely, to cause it to be eradicated for ever.