‘Roy Foster, Dev and a daring challenge’ by Donal Kennedy


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I challenge anyone to persuade me of one or all of the following propositions –
1. That Roy Foster is honest.
2. That by occupying a Chair of History in Oxford University he adds lustre to that seat of learning.
3. That his work redounds to the glory of God or the honour of Ireland.
A caveat: Neither the use or threat of the use of electrodes or other means of torture is permissible for such persuasion.
My challenge arises from the review  of a book on Eamon de Valera which appeared recently in The Spectator attributed to Professor Foster.
When I think of de Valera I think of ballots and elections from 1917 to 1966. When Foster thinks of Dev he thinks ballocks and erections and his starting point is a campaign for the legalisation of the sale of contraceptives in the Republic in 1971.
 I prefer to start in 1935 when Fianna Fail, led by Dev,  had won two General Elections in a row, and Dev had also been elected President of the General Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva. In Geneva Dev said that the League should oppose Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia and in Ireland he addressed his fellow citizens telling them he would commit the Irish Army to support the League in opposing the Italian Dictator. Supporting Mussolini were Pope Pius XI, Winston Churchill, William Cosgrave and Fine Gael. Anthony Eden described Dev as a firebrand for his commitment to the Covenant of the League which had been established by the imperialist
victors of the Great War. In 1935 the sale of contraceptives was banned in Ireland and a poll in 1977, when Dev had been buried two years, found only 47% of those polled favoured the ban’s removal.
In 1936, through the agency of the British intelligence agent Hugh Pollard, General Franco  was flown from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco  whence he launched his attack on Spanish democracy. Siding with the mutineer were the Pope, the Spanish hierarchy, the Irish hierarchy, the Irish Independent and the Fine Gael Party, which mobilised an armed Irish contingent   in support of Franco. Ireland, led by de Valera, continued to recognise the Spanish Republic for three years until Franco was installed in Madrid. Hugh Pollard became MI6 Station Chief in the British Embassy there. Pollard had a dishonourable record in Ireland in 1920-1921.
Both the Sunday Times and the Spectator suggest that de Valera, Franco and Salazar were cut from the same cloth. That is arrant nonsense, But it is nonsense with Professor Foster’s imprimatur.
Who’ll take up my challenge?  Blackshirts? “Hitler Shirts?”  Blue Shirts?   Come on ye Black ‘n’ Tans!

7 Responses to ‘Roy Foster, Dev and a daring challenge’ by Donal Kennedy

  1. Pa November 28, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    The by now clichéd journey of the stickie intellectual. Where once stood a Marxist firebrand, fierce in his desire for the workers republic, now lies a tired old hack, fattened up with his ministerial pension /Sindo collumn/seat in the Lords, betraying all he once believed (and was happy to see others die or imprisoned for). The watermark for these sloths is their now diehard love for Israel, notably through the Henry Jackson Society, a kind of masonic order of neocon warmongers. There’s good money in going over to the hard (indeed, virtually far) right!

  2. donal kennedy November 28, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    Sorry Pa, I don’t quite get you. Was Foster a “Stickie.?” Interesting that you mention the Henry
    Jackson society, as there are members popping up on the Telly and Henry Jackson is not quite a household name,.
    Senator Jackson, known as “Scoop” was photographed at an airport receiving a message during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and the photo shown in TIME or NEWSWEEK. I had
    never heard of him before that or since that until a couple of months ago when YOUNG JERKS, apparently inspired by his ideas, kept popping up like Space Invaders.

  3. michael c November 28, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

    I think somebody is confusing Foster with Paul Bew.

  4. John Pattom November 29, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    Uppermost thoughts on De Valera are his total abdication for social and educational, leaving the Catholic Hierarchy to establish an autocratic hegemony, the effects of which linger on.

  5. Pa November 29, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Yeesh indeed I was confusing Foster and Bew. Saw the Bewster in Botanic a few days ago. Must have caused it (or incipient senility)

  6. giordanobruno November 30, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    This piece seems a bit erratic.
    Are you critical of the book being reviewed or do you think the review is inaccurate?
    It seems a well balanced review to me, noting Dev’s achievements as well as his close ties to the Catholic hierarchy, which gives rise to the comparison with Franco I suppose.
    So is it the Author Fanning you disagree with or the critic Foster?
    Suggesting he is being dishonest when he is merely giving an opinion seems a bit unfair, not to mention your further attacks on his reputation for which you offer no justification.

  7. Donal Kennedy December 11, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

    Sorry to take so long. I read Foster’s comments on de Valera which appeared in The Spectator.

    Foster’s piece in THE SPECTATOR was not a critical appraisal of a book, but merely an ahistorical and near hysterical attack on de Valera.

    It would not surprise me if he never saw the book. I haven’t either. The book was

    was subtitled “a will to power.” IRISH VOTERS willed de Valera to power twice when he led
    Sinn Fein and eight times when he led Fianna Fail, and twice into the ceremonial office of President. Foster fights shy of discussing elections, or even accepting the validity of their confirmed results. His prose is elegant but his pose unconvincing.