Thursday 21 November 2019

A skewed view of de Valera

Madam –Martin Mansergh's embarrassing attempt (Sunday Independent, December 2, 2012) to portray Eamon de Valera as a figure in history who took a moral stand against Hitler, and National Socialism, is akin to throwing seeds on to fallow ground in the hope that an array of crops will spring up.

The de Valera who visited US Ambassador David Gray to offer his condolences upon the death of President Roosevelt in April 1945, was exactly the same man who played a major part in a brutal terrorist conspiracy of 1916, and continued his criminal activity right up to 1923-26, when he decided to face the reality of military defeat at the hands of the Free State army.

In this respect, de Valera made an impressive transition from a proto-fascist terrorist to a consummate disciple of Machiavelli, a figure he recommended for study to his blood-brother Richard Mulcahy, when the former chief of the IRA asked de Valera for advice in relation to politics.

From the outset morality had never played any part in de Valera's thinking.

Notwithstanding that politics and morality have hardly ever been happy bed-fellows, there are times in politics when one is required to take a moral stance and avoid moral isolation in the eyes of the democratic world.

As John Paul McCarthy has argued, "the Allies and Nazis (to de Valera) were equidistant points on a flat moral line". (Sunday Independent, November 18, 2012)

De Valera was well placed to understand Adolf Hitler, and what his ascent to power in 1933 really represented.

Mr Mansergh makes much of his idol's assertion in 1918 that mutual self-interest made it desirable for Ireland and Britain to be the "closest of allies". This, however, is just political strategic logic, and nothing else.

Whilst more than 55,000 Irish people defied de Valera's neutrality and joined the British army and merchant navy to fight Nazism, Irish Secretary for External Affairs Joe Walshe, while the Battle of Britain was raging overhead in June 1940, expressed "great admiration for the German achievements". The political views of Irish Charge d'Affaires William Warnock were no less concerning.

His "unquestionable hostility to Britain", could be seen as "sympathetic to National Socialism" (Joseph J Lee, Ireland 1912-1985, page 248) Neither of these individuals were ever carpeted by de Valera.

Despite clear knowledge that the death camps were opening in 1940, de Valera's restrictive policy in relation to Jewish entry into Ireland remained – why displease the Third Reich when they were winning, was de Valera's position.

His feeble criticism of Germany's invasion of Belgium and Holland as a "cruel wrong" – which Mr Mansergh makes much of – made about as much noise as that of a mouse squeaking in the corridors of Nazi headquarters in Munich.

De Valera had no trouble in distinctly "not condemning" the previous invasion of Belgium by the Germans in 1914, as he himself prepared to bring war to the streets of Dublin in 1916.

Pierce Martin

Celbridge, Co Kildare

Sunday Independent

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