The influence from European Fascist Movements in the 1930s on Ireland.

The intention of the thread is to shade a light on how much influence from European Fascist Movements in the 1930s on Ireland.

Given that most people on this forum have a good knowledge about the widespread Fascist ideologies in the 1930s, as the counter ideology towards Communism, it would be interesting to learn what Irish posters think about the influence that came from the European continent to have some effects on Irish politics in the 1930s.

I´ve often come across posts in which the more Conservative Party in Ireland (FG) is still loathed to be the heir of the former Blueshirts. From my rather brief knowledge about FG, I´d be rather careful to make such allegations anyway. So to find out, which parties in Ireland as well absorbed former members of the Blueshirts, besides FG, this thread could contribute to that matter as well. It´d be up to those taking part in that thread. As a side note.

But back to the OP. After the rising of Mussolini´s Fascist Party in Italy in the early 1920s, other similar movements seeked to adopt his way to power and within a period between ten to fifteen years, every European country had it´s Fascist movements or authoritarian regimes, similar to Fascist regimes. In Britain and Ireland, this started rather late and was unsuccessful for various reasons. The main reason for that is that the people in both countries were not inclined to follow such a movement in their majority. Mosley in Britian was more something of laughingstock and despite his family linked connection through his marriage to one of the Midford sisters, Hitler despised him. There was no mention about the Irish version in anything I´ve read from German sources on European Fascism. In fact, it didn´t matter for it even didn´t lasted for long. On the other hand, movements like that of the BNP in Britain and the Blueshirts in Ireland, would had been the “welcome audience” in case of a German invasion during WWII (the respecting of one countries neutrality didn´t matter to Hitler if that stood in the way of conquest).

Where those Irish Fascists after the Blueshirts were abolished still be seen as something like a “fifth collumn” threatening the Irish State in it´s effort to keep itself out of the war and maintain neutrality? Further more, what is the legacy of them in Irish politics after WWII, if there is any?

The Blueshirts were far closer in ideology to Mussolini’s corporate fascist model than Hitler’s National Socialism.

A lasting legacy is the Seanad panel-system, which was Dev’s response to the Church’s admiration for the corporate-state model in Fascist Italy. The Church was cosying up to Mussolini because of his opposition to Communism and the Concordat with the Vatican especially the latter as a state.

Ireland:When the bishop’s blessed the blueshirts

Irish Conservatism too has its Fascist skeletons in the cupboard, even more so than the Conservative Party. Ireland also has it’s own peculiar version of Holocaust denial where it is claimed that the Blueshirt movement was not Fascist usually on the basis of criteria so strict one could conclude that no Fascist ever existed anywhere. The Blueshirts were a continuation of Civil War politics but they were also part of European Fascism, the Irish strain of a European disease. The development of the Blueshirt movement came as Cumann Na nGaedheal, victors in the ‘22 to ’23 Civil War handed power over to the vanquished Fianna Fail in 1932. They emerged out of the Army Comrades Association, a Blueshirted veterans group which claimed in 1931 a membership of 100,000. In 1933 the recently fired ex-police commissioner Eoin O’Duffy became leader of the A.C.A. (now named the National Guard) and began to move it in a Fascist direction. O’Duffy had been a close college of Michael Collins during the War of Independence and Civil War and had become notorious among Unionists for making a speech in South Armagh in which he promised to “Give ’em the lead”, and he was also hated by Republicans for carrying out several atrocities against them during the Civil War as well as much repression against them afterward. One of the mainsprings of the Blueshirt movement was an anti-Communist paranoia, they believed that DeValera, the Fianna Fail leader was Ireland’s answer to Kerensky and that waiting in the shadows for him to fall was a Bolshevised I.R.A. . This line of thinking was justified to a degree, Fianna Fail were spewing a sort of pseudo-radical populism at the time and they were being supported by an increasingly left-wing I.R.A.. In 1931 a new political wing of the Republican Movement was established entitled Saor Eire, as an example of the leftward drift within Republicanism here follows excerpts of it’s draft constitution:
“To abolish, without compensation, landlordism in lands, fisheries and minerals”

“To make the national wealth and credit available for the creation and fullest development of essential industries and mineral resources, through Industrial Workers Co-operatives, under State direction and management, workers to regulate internal working conditions” (1)

As Blueshirt James Hogan put it:

“It was the growing menace of the Communist I.R.A. that called forth the Blueshirts as Communist Anarchy called forth the Blackshirts in Italy” (2)

However mostly when they thought of the Red Menace they were simply believing their own exaggerated propaganda. Now who was responsible for this Red tide? Why the international Jewish/Communist/Banking conspiracy of course. As a writer in the Blueshirt journal put it: “The founders of Communism were practically all Jews. This can scarcely be a mere coincidence. It may appear singular that Marx, Engels, Lasalle and Ricardo were all Jews” (3)

The Blueshirts saw themselves as part of the European Fascist movement, as a leading Cumann na nGaedheal member John A. Costello, who was later leader of Fine Gael and Prime Minister of the Irish Republic said in the Dail:

“The Blackshirts have been victorious in Italy and Hitler’s Brownshirts have been victorious in Germany, as assuredly the Blueshirts will be victorious in Ireland.” (4)

This was not so and much of the credit must go to the people who fought them tooth and nail. O’Duffy planed a Mussolini style March on Rome for Dublin in August 1933 ostensibly to commemorate Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and Kevin O’Higgins. The Government banned the march and units of the I.R.A. lay in wait to ambush it as it passed over O’Connell bridge. O’Duffy backed down and cancelled the march. The Blueshirt movement was now marginalised, O’Duffy had failed to live up to his hard man rhetoric. Later that year the Blueshirts merged with Cumann Na nGaedheal, the Farmers Party and the National Centre Party to form Fine Gael with O’Duffy as it’s leader. O’Duffy was ousted from the leadership after making a speech in which he proposed to invade Northern Ireland.

The Spanish Civil War

O’Duffy re-emerged onto the national stage in 1936 to form a seven hundred strong Irish Brigade to fight for Franco in Spain’s Civil War, this effort was vigorously supported by the Catholic Church. The Dean of Cashel endorsed it stating that:

“The Irish Brigade have gone to fight the battle of Christianity against Communism. There are tremendous difficulties facing the men under O’Duffy and only heroes can fight such a battle” (5)

The aforementioned Saor Eire had by contrast been condemned by the Bishops as:

“a sinful and irreligious organisation” (6)

They pressurised the Government into outlawing it.

Cardinal Macrory Archbishop of Armagh and primate of all-Ireland, while addressing seven thousand pilgrims in Drogheda at the shrine of blessed Oliver Plunket – a preserved, severed head with reputed magical powers, nailed his colours to the mast and expressed his support for Franco:

“There is no room any longer for any doubt as to the issues at stake in the Spanish conflict. It is not a question of the Army against the people, nor the Army plus the aristocracy and the Church against Labour. Not at all. It is a question of whether Spain will remain as she has been for so long, a Christian and Catholic land or a Bolshevist and anti-God one” (7)

Newspapers and in particular the Irish Independent took a pro-Franco line:

“It is well that the line of demarcation in Spain should be made clear. On the one side is a so-called Government which has abandoned all the functions of government to a Communist Junta bent upon the destruction of personal liberty, the eradication of religion, the burning of churches, and the wholesale slaughter of clergy. On the other side are the Patriot Army gladly risking liberty, property, and life, in defense of their faith-Fighting the same fight that our Irish ancestors fought for centuries for the same cause” (8)

Unsurprisingly the multitude of widely read Church based publications were even more vociferous in their praise for Fascism.

The main body organising support for Franco was the Irish Christian Front ( I.C.F.) a broad based pressure group which , in the early months of the civil war , organised massive demonstrations and had , initially at least , more widespread support than the Blueshirts . The Front’s founders were Patrick Belton , who was formerly a T.D. for both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael as well as being an ex-Blueshirt , and Alexander McCabe , formerly elected for both Sinn Fein (pre-1922) and Cumann Na nGaedheal and later to be a member of Eoin O’Duffy’s pro-nazi People’s National Party. At one I.C.F. rally in Cork in September 1936 40,000 people assembled to hear Monsignor Patrick Sexton , dean of Cork , blame the civil war on “a gang of murderous Jews in Moscow” (9) while beside him stood Alfred O’Rahilly , the future president of the University College of Cork and Douglas Hyde , the future president of the Irish state who currently has his head on the £50 note.

Oliver J. Flanagan and Fine Gael

In 1943 elected as an independent to the Dail for the Laois-Offaly area was one Oliver J. Flanagan . In one of his earliest parliamentary speeches he said:

“There is one thing that Germany did and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair’s breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are there is honey, and where the Jews are there is money.” (10) He was soon to join Fine Gael and remained a T.D. for them until 1987 briefly becoming Minister for Defence in the late 1970’s .

Fianna Fail and Alleanza Nazionale

Fianna Fail’s members of the European Parliament are part of the same group, the Union for Europe of the Nations, as the neo-Fascist , post-Fascist, or just plain-Fascist Italian party the Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance).Gianfranco Fini , leader of the National Alliance , describes Mussolini as his “political master” and as “the greatest Italian politician”.

Ireland in WW II

Republic of Ireland Ireland[edit]
Main article: The Emergency (Ireland)
Ireland remained neutral throughout the war, the only member of the British Commonwealth to do so. The Irish Government declared a state of emergency on 2 September 1939, and the Emergency Powers Act was enacted by the Oireachtas the following day.33 This gave sweeping new powers to the government for the duration of the Emergency, including internment, censorship of the press and correspondence, and government control of the economy. The Emergency Powers Act lapsed on 2 September 1946.[citation needed]

Irish citizens were free to work abroad and join foreign militaries. “In January 1942 it was found that in the whole of the British Army 23,549 men (0.05%) were born in Ireland. In 1944 the Ireland figure had increased to 27,840.”34 By the end of the war the figures suggest that 50,000 men and women born in the State served in the British armed forces,35 although this estimate has risen considerably over the years.36

Internment of both Axis and Aliied military took place in separate sections of the same camp. No.1 Internment camp, that had been built by the British pre-1922, held republicans who had a suspected link to the I.R.A.37

In June 1940 British Major General Bernard Montgomery was tasked to make plans to invade Ireland in order to seize38 Cork and Cobh. Winston Churchill also made plans to invade to take the three former Treaty Ports.39

One particular Irishman who joined the British armed forces, to fight the axis, continues to hold a uniquely distinct honor, Brendan Finucane the youngest Wing Commander and fighter ace in the RAF’s history,40 who, before the age of 22, achieved one of the highest kill rates in the Battle of Britain and in offensive operations over France, shooting down 32 axis planes (23 of which were Bf 109s) in his shamrock crested spitfire.41

A total of roughly forty Irish people were killed in the Bombing of Dublin in World War II and County Carlow in apparently-accidental bombings by the Luftwaffe.42 The bombings have been cited as the result of either deliberate attacks, errors in navigation or British electronic countermeasures against the Luftwaffe.

The decision to go ahead with the D-day landings was decided by an Atlantic ocean weather report from Blacksod Bay, County Mayo Ireland.43

Ireland and the Continent

Behind the Green Curtain: Ireland’s phoney neutrality during World War II

Behind the Green Curtain: Ireland’s phoney neutrality during World War II
T. Ryle Dwyer

The reasons for Irish neutrality during the Second World War are widely accepted: that any attempt to take an overtly pro-British line might have resulted in a replay of the Civil War; that Southern Ireland could make little material contribution to the Allied effort, while engagement without adequate defence would have resulted in wholesale domestic destruction; that small states do badly in wars not of their making brought about by large ones, and are better keeping out if at all possible; that by asserting its right to remain out of the war, Southern Ireland also asserted its own independence in international affairs. It had mass popular backing. Nor can Southern Ireland’s right to stay out of the war be disputed. That this was deeply unpopular with both Britain and the United States has also never been in doubt.

It was also, until recently at least, widely accepted that the policy of even-handedness between the combatants was pursued to the point of pedantry. Brian Girvin has gone so far as to talk of the indifference of the Southern government to the outcome of the war; Clare Wills has emphasised the rigour and effectiveness of censorship in how the war was reported, and has shown how Irish public opinion ranged from pro-British to pro-German, with a majority wanting to keep clear of any entanglement. This was reflected in wartime elections.

But this has gradually been challenged. Southern Ireland has been repositioned—rebranded, if you prefer, in the style of post-modern diplomacy, where image is all and actual action secondary—as ‘we were neutral, but neutral on the Allied side’. The ‘we’ suggests a congruence between covert policy—secret cooperation—and public sentiment. The implication is: ‘we were on the Allied side’.

The attractions of this piece of revisionism are obvious. It recasts the history of Ireland in the twentieth century in a distinctly progressive light: an unbroken march to modernity by one of the older democracies, which did the right thing by Europe in its hour of need; Southern Ireland as a repository of liberal values in a new dark age. It allows present-day neutrality to be presented as contingent, a pragmatic response rather than a fixed principle of Southern foreign policy. At a time of evolving European foreign policy that too has its attractions—to some.

T. Ryle Dwyer’s new book, subtitled ‘Ireland’s phoney neutrality during World War II’, seeks to show how the Irish cooperated, first with the British, then with the Americans, in the war against the Axis powers. He seeks to restore Southern Ireland to its place amongst the virtuous by exploding ‘the myth behind the shibboleth of neutrality’, to cite his own blurb.
With the fall of France in June 1940, the French army went over to Petain, the vast majority regarding de Gaulle as little less than a traitor for siding with the ancient enemy, Britain. Some Petainists looked to Ireland with favour, seeing in it a model of Catholic corporatism that could be applied in their own constitution. It took a Petainist who had taught in Trinity College, Georges Pelerson, and who knew what de Valera’s Ireland was like, to disabuse them of the idea. There was something of the pre-modern Utopia with a strong dose of authoritarianism, to put it at its kindest, about de Valera’s ideal Ireland, something not incompatible with Catholic teaching. And if de Valera’s preferred system of first-past-the-post voting had prevailed, Southern Ireland would have been a mirror image of its northern counterpart, a ‘bigoted and neo-Fascist regime’, to use Ryle Dwyer’s words for Northern Ireland. Ideologically, Southern Ireland was sufficiently flexible as not to be precluded from treating with Hitler’s Germany.

But Southern Ireland did offer some assistance to Britain. The British minister to Ireland, John Maffey, writing in 1941, described this as access to some intelligence reports, coded weather reports, prompt reports of submarine movements, and use of Lough Foyle and the Donegal corridor. Against this must be set the resolute refusal of the Southern government to make any concessions on the use of Southern naval bases in the war in the Atlantic. There is also Frank Aiken’s visit to the United States to negotiate on shipping and armaments, when he was snubbed by Roosevelt but went on to oppose US aid for Britain and share pro-US neutrality platforms with some very dubious company. Britain was on its own.

With Pearl Harbour and the opening of the Eastern Front, everything changed. Southern Ireland became more cooperative with the Allies, particularly the Americans, something acknowledged by Maffey. But even with Allied victory increasingly likely, de Valera retained an attachment to neutrality to the point of its becoming an idée fixe. In the run-up to D-Day, when the Allies were understandably worried by the presence of Axis diplomats in Dublin and the information they might transmit home, de Valera refused to close their missions down. Finally, there was the offering of condolences to the German minister on the death of Hitler.

T. Ryle Dwyer has given a good, clear account (and this review does no justice to its range) of a crucial point in Irish history. He also gives a fascinating account of a small state negotiating its way through Big Power tumult—*think of a contemporary African state caught up in the US ‘war against terror’*—and concludes that it is inaccurate to describe Irish policy as one of neutrality. I would dispute that: it was neutrality that trimmed its jib to suit the prevailing fields of force.

At the end of his autobiography, Interesting times, Eric Hobsbawm says that the one thing he cannot contemplate is that the 50 million dead and the uncounted horrors of the Second World War weren’t worth the defeat of National Socialism. In that reckoning, in that scale of things, neutral Ireland’s contribution to that defeat counts for nothing. HI


English Blood, Irish Heart ErikWeissengruber