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'Stockpile food and stay at home': How Ireland prepared for nuclear war

In the 1960s, the government issued a leaflet to all Irish households offering homespun advice on how to survive a nuclear war, writes Damian Corless

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Cloudy issue: A French nuclear test in 1970

Cloudy issue: A French nuclear test in 1970

Getty Images

Excerpt of Bás Beatha

Excerpt of Bás Beatha

Cover of Bás Beatha

Cover of Bás Beatha

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Cloudy issue: A French nuclear test in 1970

There have been a few whinges of frustration, some groans of self-pity, but halfway through this trial by isolation, the vast majority of people have submitted with good grace to a vexing test of national character and comradeship.

Dealing with all this adversity, it's comforting to tell ourselves that it's to prepare for, and thereby avert, the worst, but that's to cod ourselves a bit. A previous Irish generation were put under orders to prepare for the worst - the real worst - when they were told to steel themselves for a nuclear war that could wipe humankind from the face of the Earth.

In the wake of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, as the US and USSR stepped gingerly back from the brink of mutual obliteration, Red China upped the game of Russian roulette, exploding a bomb in 1964. The following year 700,000 Irish households received a copy of Bás Beatha (Death/Life), a guide to "protection in the home and on the farm".