Diarmaid Ferriter: Invade Eire ... are you kidding, Mr Hitler?
THE revelation of a secret plan for a Nazi invasion of Ireland during the Second World War, which was up for auction in England yesterday, should come as no surprise.
The declaration of Irish neutrality at the outset of the war was a determined assertion of Irish sovereignty and the culmination of de Valera's successful mission during the 1930s to win back the Irish ports of Lough Swilly, Bearehaven and Cobh, which Britain held under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. But neutrality also involved walking various diplomatic tightropes, and possibilities abounded about the violation of neutrality from both Germany and Britain, especially in 1940.
The trade-off for the return of the ports, and thus denial of Britain's access to naval facilities, was that Ireland was supposed to make sure it was not a threat to British security, which meant preventing third parties using Ireland as a means to attack Britain. This became a serious military and security preoccupation, for the simple reason that Ireland did not have the means to defend itself, despite the stirring rhetoric that the Irish would resist any invasion.