What got on Churchill’s wick and why

Ireland’s decision to remain neutral during the Second World War, known as “The Emergency” in Ireland, was rooted in a complex interplay of historical, political, and strategic considerations. The stance of neutrality, championed by Prime Minister Éamon de Valera, was not only a pragmatic choice but also a reflection of Ireland’s desire to assert its sovereignty, maintain internal stability, and navigate a delicate international landscape.

One of the primary reasons for Ireland’s neutrality was its recent struggle for independence from British rule. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which led to the establishment of the Irish Free State, was a bitterly contested compromise. Full independence was only achieved in 1937 with the adoption of a new constitution, and the scars of the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War were still fresh. Joining the war alongside Britain could have been seen as undermining Ireland’s hard-won sovereignty and aligning with a former oppressor, which would have been politically and socially contentious.

Neutrality also allowed Ireland to avoid the devastating human and economic costs of the war. The country was still recovering from the economic challenges of the 1930s, and participation in a global conflict would have placed immense strain on its limited resources. The preservation of life was a significant concern for a nation with a relatively small population, and the devastation wrought by the war on the European continent underscored the prudence of de Valera’s cautious approach.

Strategically, Ireland’s geographic location made neutrality a viable option. The island was somewhat insulated from the direct threat of Axis invasion, and its non-participation did not critically hinder the overall Allied war effort. Ireland’s ports and airfields were of strategic interest, but the Allies, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, managed to coordinate the war effort effectively without Ireland’s active involvement. Additionally, de Valera maintained a policy of strict neutrality, which included measures such as interning belligerent soldiers who landed on Irish soil and censoring wartime news to prevent bias.

Domestically, neutrality helped to maintain social cohesion and political stability. Ireland was deeply divided along political and religious lines, with significant nationalist and republican sentiments opposed to any alignment with Britain. Entering the war could have exacerbated these divisions, potentially leading to internal conflict or even civil war. Neutrality provided a unifying policy that most factions could accept, thus preserving internal peace during a tumultuous period.

Moreover, neutrality allowed Ireland to offer humanitarian assistance without becoming embroiled in the conflict. Ireland accepted refugees, including Jewish families fleeing Nazi persecution, and provided support through organizations such as the Irish Red Cross. This humanitarian stance bolstered Ireland’s international reputation as a neutral, peace-loving nation.

Finally, the policy of neutrality set a precedent for Ireland’s future foreign policy, shaping its identity as a neutral state committed to peace and diplomacy. This stance has continued to influence Ireland’s approach to international relations, contributing to its role in peacekeeping missions and its strong support for international institutions like the United Nations.

In conclusion, Ireland’s decision to remain neutral during the Second World War was a multifaceted strategy that protected its sovereignty, preserved its economic and human resources, maintained internal stability, and established a lasting commitment to peace and neutrality. While controversial, this policy was ultimately justified by the unique historical and geopolitical context in which Ireland found itself during the war years.


6 Responses to What got on Churchill’s wick and why

  1. Barry June 12, 2024 at 8:50 am #

    Irelands population suffered huge decline as a result of British policy and absentee landlord policies during the Great Hunger of the 1840s, with further losses during the Great War, the War of Independence and subsequent Civil War, the latter two resulting in many of the brightest and best leaving for the USA to avoid incarceration and discrimination in employment.
    To varying extents these events were all the result of British policy over the century leading up to the Second World War, and Ireland had significantly reduced “blood and treasure” to contribute at a formal national level.
    At the same time, many members of the Irish military technically “deserted” to enlist in British Regiments.

  2. Donal Kennedy June 12, 2024 at 10:05 am #

    Ireland declared an Emergency before Chamberlain’s delaration of war on Germany of September 3rd
    1939, before Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union in June 1940 and before Japan’s attack on Pearl
    Harbor in December 1941. Ireland’s newspapers and Radio Eireann reported on various wars, including
    Britain’s Phoney War as they occurred , But phoney later commentators such as Ruairi Quinn in his
    memoir STRAIGHT LEFT would have you believe otherwise, (You might enjoy my Blog “FUKUAMA,

    The First World War, exposed by Roger Casement as The Crime Against Europe as an Anglo/French
    conspiracy the Entente Cordiale of 1904. The Second World War and virtually all major wars since have their genesis in British Statesmanship, whose roots are like with Mae West’s Diamonds – GOODNESS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

    My mother had 4 brothers. Denis, Ned, Jack and Leo Burke.

    Ned was a keen Gael, a GAA man, played the bagpipes, signed his name in Irish, and as a member
    of FIANNA EIREANN helped unload the rifles from Erskine Childers’ yacht ASGARD in Howth
    on Sunday 26 July 1914.
    But following the advice of John Redmond and Tom Kettle he joined the Dublin Fusiliers and fought
    in Flanders for nearly four years until the German counteroffensive in the Spring of 1918 had him throw away his rifle and run to keep up with the rset of the British foces in his sector, He was gassed and was invalided out from a British Army hospital in Dublin. His uniform was bug-ridden and had
    to be burned in the family garden on the Sutton’s Burrow Road. Like his father and grandfather Ned
    was a Master Bookbinder. He was offered the task of re-binding The Book of Kells in later years,
    but declined as he was pat his best. He was in and out of hospital because of the gassing until he died,
    still in his 60s. Jack and Leo Burke also served and suffered in Britain’s wars,
    Denis Burke lived into his 70s. He was a member of the Irish Christian Brothers, deemed by bien-pensant Gobshites as Men of Violence,

    deal with these matters at more length.

    My Godfather, Bill O’Connell from Cork, graduated as a Doctor from UCC in the late 1930s
    and was practising in England in 1939. He joined the RAMC and was the first member of that
    Corps into Belsen Concentration Camp on its liberation in 1945.

  3. Ernesider June 12, 2024 at 2:55 pm #

    Ireland becomes a Republic

    Only in the spring of 1923 did the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the Oireachtas in Dublin start to function normally.
    The Westminster Parliament now governed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    The British monarch, King George V, continued to be head of state in the Irish Free State, but the External Relations Act, 1936, reduced his role. Section 3 of that Act recognised George VI as his successor “under the law of Saorstát Eireann” and authorised him to act on its behalf “for the purposes of the appointment of diplomatic and consular representatives and the conclusion of international agreements”.

    Elected President

    In 1937 a new Irish constitution established an elected president. There was disagreement between Ireland and the UK as to whether this mean Ireland was a republic.

    In 1948 John A. Costello, the Taoiseach (the Irish prime minister), announced that legislation would remove the residual role of the King in Irish law. The subsequent Republic of Ireland Act, 1948, “hereby declared that the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland”.

    The UK Parliament then passed the Ireland Act 1949, which acknowledged that Ireland had “ceased to be part…of His Majesty’s dominions” and therefore a member of the Commonwealth.

    The 1949 Act also clarified the status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, giving a statutory guarantee that it would remain part of the UK so long as its devolved parliament desired.

    This provision caused controversy among Irish nationalists who viewed it as an obstacle to achieving a united Ireland.

  4. Another Jude June 12, 2024 at 3:48 pm #

    Very interesting article and some really fascinating replies.

  5. James Hunter June 12, 2024 at 4:30 pm #

    Very good jude free Palestine

    • Jude Collins June 12, 2024 at 5:04 pm #

      Thank you, James. Ditto…