Sunday 22 April 2018

Fitting tribute to Dev’s diplomatic masterstroke

UNDER an annex to the 1921 Anglo Irish Treaty, Britain retained 'specific naval facilities' in so-called 'Southern Ireland', most notably the ports of Cobh and Bearhaven in Co Cork, and Lough Swilly in Co Donegal. The British naval authorities retained these ports for 17 years. Finally, Taoiseach Eamon de Valera concluded the very timely return of these ports in summer of 1938, and just ahead of the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

The move proved to be a diplomatic masterstroke by 'Dev' and was part of negotiations that concluded the ruinous 'economic war' which destroyed Irish agriculture. The hand-over spared thousands of Irish lives as the ports would have been a magnet for German bombers while continuing to fly the British flag.

The formal hand-over of these so-called 'Treaty Ports' happened precisely 75 years ago yesterday, on July 11, 1938. It was marked by parades and festivities and Eamon de Valera travelled to Cobh for the hand-over there.

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