As I start this piece (in London) it’s an hour to go before the Kick-off, in Lansdowne Road of the Ireland vs. France International. It’s also seventy years since my father took me to Lansdowne Road to watch Ireland, captained by Karl Mullen play an International against- I forget whom. When Ireland played England that year it was in Twickenham. Ireland had been Grand Slam winners the previous year. My father loved rugby, which he had played both at Christian Brothers College Cork, (where HIS father had taught) and at University College Cork. And his father had played Rugby and Cricket at Blackrock College in the 1880s. Until very recently Rugby Union was an amateur sport.

Karl Mullen survived the 1949 season by sixty years. He was a very busy Consultant Gynaecologist reputed to have delivered enough babies who might, fully grown, have filled Lansdowne Road.

Perhaps Ireland’s best known ex-Rugby- player was Eamon de Valera, who described his love for the game to a British Ambassador who had presented his credentials to him, whilst the Minister for External Affairs and co-founder of Fianna Fail, Frank Aiken from South Armagh,argued the merits of Gaelic Football.

The achievements, national and and international, of de Valera and Aiken have perhaps never excited the interest of fashionable historians, nor entered the consciousness of ambitious youth in Ireland.But if Ireland,Europe and this planet are to sustain life of any sort, their records might be studied and  and their principles adopted.


 From 1932 until 1948  de Valera was head of the Irish Government and Minister for  External Affairs. At the League of Nations in Geneva he demanded that all members honour its Covenant and impose sanctions on those who broke it by attacking other countries. This might require them to jointly contribute forces to defend China from Japan and Abyssinia from Italy. He was willing to commit Irish troops for the job.The leading powers reneged on the Covenant. In 1934 Dev  argued, successfully, for the admission of the Soviet Union to the League,and Martin Mansergh asserts that the Soviets behaved impeccably within it.

As Minister for External Affairs from 1957 to 1969 Frank Aiken played a similar role in the United Nations. He campaigned for a non-proliferation treaty as a first step towards the elimination of all nuclear weapons, and such a Treaty was passed, and was effective, for a time. He also campaigned for considering the seating of the representatives of the de facto Government of China at the UN rather than those of the ousted Government which had taken refuge in Formosa.

In the 1930s de Valera’s anti-Fascist stance was attacked by reactionary forces in Ireland, and in the 1950s the same forces in Ireland, and the USA, denounced Aiken. But in 1970 the Red-Baiting Richard Nixon decided that China’s real Govermnent be recognised.

TheNon-Proliferation Treaty is no longer in Force. The Great Powers, their posturing cronies and proxies murder and loot at will without any authorisation fom the United Nations, defy Security Council Resolutions, uproot whole populations whose fittest refugees sail, row and swim to more fortunate countries which treat themas rubbish, The Great Powers have sown Dragons’ Teeth, and are shocked when they spring up as Armed Men.

Another Fianna Fail Minister, Oscar Traynor, had an International reputation years before engaging in Insurrection or Politics.He had toured Europe as Goalkeeper with Belfast Celtic in 1912, taken part in the Rising in his native Dublin in 19i6, led the IRA’s Dublin Brigade 1920-1922 and was a Sinn Fein TD when he wrote in Sporting Weekly of the great numbers of Soccer Players amongst his fellow internees in Frongoch in 1916 when so many leading GAA men had gone off to fight for John Bull in the Great War. (The Article is reproduced on the History Ireland Website). As Minister for Defence, Traynor, inspecting Army Recruits, assured them they would never be employed to attack another country and deprive its citizens of their rights. I wonder how many  War or Defence Ministers of the Great Powers or their Collaborators given soldiers such a promise. Could Ireland’s current  Defence Minister* today make that promise? I hear he intends to triple his budget from One Billion to Three Billion Euro Annually and whom he intends banging with his bucks.

Though politically in Opposition in 1952 Traynor was drawn into the International spotlight when Ireland played Yugoslavia in Dalymount Park. Archbishop John Charles McQuaid used or abused his great influence to have the game boycotted.The President of Ireland, who may not participate in international matters against Government advice, did not attend the match, and no Army Band was there to play the Anthems,Yugoslavia had a Communist Government which was pursuing a neutral course in the Cold War, but had imprisoned a Cardinal, Considering the collaboration which senior clerics had given the Nazis there, and in Austria, in Italy to Mussolini and to Franco in Spain, I imagine the Cardinal was not too hard done by.

But Oscar Traynor, like Fianna Fail generally, respected Bishops in their proper sphere but was never browbeaten by them.

Oscar Traynor welcomed the Yugoslav players, some of whom were observed blessing themselves as they walked onto the pitch.

* Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach, is also Minister of Defence.

See also BLOG “Gentlemen Playing with Odd-Shaped Balls”.

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