Wednesday 26 October 2016

Letters: Was WWII Ireland saved at the expense of others?

Published 31/08/2015 | 02:30

Eamon de Valera
Eamon de Valera

De Valera's view on neutrality in WWII was to save the people from war and from nightly aerial bombings of our cities and large towns - while he hoped, or was cautiously confident, the Allies would win.

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Irish people seemed to support his neutrality stance and the late British actor George Cole, in Dublin as a teenager, saw the burning of an effigy of the British PM Neville Chamberlain and in his memoir in 2013, he wrote of "a tremendous antipathy among the Irish towards the British at the time... to say it was frightening would be an understatement".

The naval ports were returned in 1938 by the British to the Irish government and even with the outbreak of war and all that was at stake of what could happen to Ireland, there was a reluctance to allow the ports be used again by the British navy.

There was at the start of war, less awareness by Irish people as to how ruthless Nazism was and of the Holocaust against the Jewish, gypsies and other peoples. There is a heart-breaking photo of a German soldier aiming his gun at a group of an elderly couple, a younger woman and a few children together making their grave in Eastern Europe.

De Valera and the government believed neutrality was safest, and with no air force or navy to speak of, it was crucial to keep the supply lines open, with our merchant navy attacked and sometimes sunk in the war.

If neutrality was set aside, these attacks may have escalated. US airmen who crash-landed in the country were repatriated back to the US. De Valera allowed the Donegal corridor in Irish airspace to be used by Allied aircraft.

The recent debate in this Letters page shows we are uncomfortable with that neutrality, compared to countries who fought on the Allied side.

Did de Valera make the right decision on neutrality? If he was brought back to life and asked, he may say he did, as it protected the people from war. On the other hand, Irish men enlisted with the Allies, and Irish women were army and RAF nurses and medics, and worked in UK factories making army supplies.

Dublin-born Brendan Finucane was the youngest wing commander in the RAF. He did not survive the war. Ireland, through them, helped to save civilisation in WWII and this is why all those who fought for the Allies are called 'the greatest generation'.

The decision to go with D-Day was based on a report from a weather station at Blacksod point, Co Mayo. John Ross, in his book The Forecast for D-Day, wrote of the observations by secret agreement from weather stations in neutral Ireland. The forecast was of a good weather window and is cited as key to D-Day.

Ireland was not entirely neutral. It was an Irish fudge for the time. It could be argued successfully that we saved ourselves at the expense of others, hence our unease on neutrality during the war.

Mary Sullivan


De Valera’s ‘moral myopia’

Gerald Morgan (Letters, August 29) makes light of Eamon de Valera’s response to the death of Hitler.

Although begged not to do so by the Department of External Affairs, de Valera insisted on conveying his condolences to the German minister in person.

He was alone in the world in doing so. Every other political leader put principle before protocol.

Though the Washington Post castigated him for “moral myopia”, de Valera was not without support. The British Union of Fascists expressed deep appreciation at the visit and conveyed “its gratitude to the government of Eire for thus honouring the memory of the greatest German in history”.

Dr John Doherty 

Ard Chondai

Cnoc an Stollaire

Women’s talents marginalised

As one who feels that this State has suffered through the marginalisation of the talents of women in its political process since independence, I feel that Niamh Gallagher’s article on what she calls a ‘power shift’ to women due to increased women on the ballot paper at the next election a bit complacent (August 29).

The campaign against women is epitomised by what happened in the past and what is still happening daily when Hillary Clinton put her name forward for the most powerful political post in the world — the presidency of the US.

The patriarchy pulled out all the stops to prevent her from succeeding. It is doing the same now at her second attempt.

Expect a strong campaign here against what will be labelled ‘token’ women candidates in the run-up to our election. It will be very interesting to see how much of a power shift to women there will be.

A Leavy


Dublin 13

Water protestors should wake up

“It happens regularly that someone puts on the coffee machine and pulls up the blinds to find 20 or more people in the garden, desperate for water,” said Frank Koller.

Frank Koller is not commenting for The Guardian (August 29) on Irish anti-water charges protestors. He is a regional spokesman for the German federal police in the border town of Passau, which is the most popular entry point into Germany for exhausted and desperate refugees who have made their way via the West Balkan route.

Many are abandoned by smugglers in woods, fields, secluded farms and even on the hard shoulder of the motorway during the night. It is local people in Passau who are waking up to this.

Perhaps our own Irish anti-water charge protestors might also like to wake up, smell the coffee and reflect on this reality elsewhere and that they are lucky to live here at all.

Pamela Iyer 


Co Dublin

Haka should be banned

The Rugby World Cup is almost upon us again and, once more, New Zealand will be favourites.

As much as I enjoy it, I believe that the All Blacks should not be allowed perform the traditional Haka before each game, as it gives them a psychological advantage.

Okay in the amateur days, but not in the professional era.

David Cleere


Co Wexford

Irish Independent

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