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Socialist Appeal, 9 June 1939

Roderick O’Connor

A Dublin Letter

On the Growth of Irish Nationalism

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 40, 9 June 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


DUBLIN, June 1. – The May issue of Republican Review, a monthly political review expressing I.R.A. (Irish Republican Army) viewpoint features an article signed “M.M.” dealing with the British King’s visit to the U.S. and with De Valera’s abandoned visit. Republican Review is run by an editorial committee, chief figure on which is Sean Macbride, barrister, Irish correspondent of Havas agency, a former Adjutant-General I.R.A. It is sponsored by the Separatist Club which mainly comprises university undergraduates who belong to the I.R.A.

This article asserts: “De Valera has lost the confidence of the nationalists of Ireland and Roosevelt is rapidly losing the confidence of the traditional American” and claims Roosevelt invited the British King and Eire Premier at this time because “he is seeking two things: a third term of office at the Presidential election next year and a policy on which to fight that election.” Roosevelt, it continues, “Instead of seeking to attain the goal of social justice for his people and the preservation of their essential and traditional isolation and neutrality, now seeks to link the destinies of America to the Western ‘democracies.’

“The ordinary observer would be staggered at the extraordinary ineptitude and partisanship of this latest example of ‘peace blundering’,” continues the article referring to President Roosevelt’s recent invitation to Germany and Italy, “if Roosevelt had not already shown on many occasions that he has abandoned the poor and forgotten men of America and gone over to the, international money lords of Wall Street and London and that he has consequently become the bitter and prejudiced opponent of Germany and Italy. But, the insult to Germany and Italy implied in this cheapjack, cute peace invitation shows the trend of Roosevelt’s policy, which has been so evident since the failure of his New Deal …”

Having criticised De Valera in some detail, the article adds:

“It will be seen that Roosevelt and De Valera are left with the sole support of the bankers, the internationalists, the British Garrisons, Freemasonry, and the pink intellectualists of their respective countries. Both ally themselves to England and seek ways to cover their utter failure.”

The article is symptomatic of the steady development of nationalist sentiment here from being merely anti-British to definitely pro-Axis. It has not yet affected the definitely republican and anti-British but also anti-fascist Irish Labor Party, but so strong was the divergence of opinion on the European crisis expressed at the annual congress of that party on April 19 that it was decided not to take a vote on a resolution proposed by Trinity College undergraduate William N. Maslin “declaring opposition to any form of association with British imperialism, insisting on Ireland’s right to pursue her own foreign policy and calling on the Administrative Council (of the party) to see, in the event of war, that no food is exported until provision has been made to satisfy the needs of the Irish people at reasonable prices.”

Instead of expressing any definite policy the Congress contented itself with passing a resolution “welcoming the efforts being made by His Holiness the Pope and President Roosevelt towards world peace.”

Leader of the Party, Bill Norton, speaking of Eire’s defense plans, charged De Valera with contemplating complete collaboration with Britain, said: “We have one invader in the Six Counties (British troops in Northern Ireland). Is there any sense, therefore, in putting out an invader in Kerry with the aid of a power that continues to occupy six of our counties in the North-East?”

Perhaps more significant of growing anti-British feeling in the rank and file of Labor is the action of 22 Irish labor unions, all affiliated to the Irish Trade Union Congress which admits British unions operating in Ireland to affiliation, in setting up a new body called the Advisory Council of Irish Trade Unions. Important unions included in new move are: Irish Bookbinders and Paper Rulers Union, Irish Bakers and Confectioners Union, Irish National Union of Woodworkers, Irish Union of Distributive Workers and Clerks, Incorporated Brick and Stonelayers, Irish National Teachers Organization, Irish Transport and General Workers Union, Dublin Typographical Society and Irish Women Workers Union.

No less is there confusion of mind in the Government party itself, and the problem of holding all the rank and file without making speeches which will merely encourage the increase of anti-British feeling among them is taxing the brains of Mr. De Valera and his Ministers. This is reflected in their day-to-day utterances still more in those of their back-benchers.

Defense Minister Frank Aiken is feverishly exhorting young men to join the Volunteers and the Eire Army who will be called on to defend our coasts against an invasion by the Axis Powers, should such occur, but when he got down to the wilds of West Cork on April 16 to unveil a memorial to Brigadier Sean Noonan who died fighting the British, he spoke rather differently of the purposes of arming Irish youths. “It is fitting,” he said, “that a memorial should be erected here to inspire the youth of today to defend the Constitution and to recover our lost Six Countries.”

Addressing a recruiting meeting at Swords, Dublin County, on May 1, when the conscription scare was at its height, Government back-bencher Tom Mullen, T.D., went further:

“So far as conscription is sought to be imposed by Britain,” he said, “let Britain have no doubt whatever that the men of Ireland, the men of Fianna Fail, and the men of our Army will stand up against it today the same as we all stood against it in 1918.”

This hymn reached its apex at Cork County Council on May 4 when Martin J. Corry, T.D., Government deputy, referring to English explosion trial sentences, said:

“When you talk of culture I can only wish that some Germans or somebody else would come in here and drive out some of that kind of culture that we had from an English Judge who imposed savage sentences on men who did their duty to this country ...

“I have a life experience of the British Hun and whilst one sod of Irish soil is held by them so long will they be entitled to the designation of ‘Public Enemy No. 1.’ in the eyes of the Irish race.”

Limerick City Branch of the Government party on May 16, adopted a resolution calling on the Government to deprive Irish men in the British Army of Eire citizenship, to ban the wearing of British uniform by members of Army on leave in Eire.

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