The Effects of World War Ii on Northern & Southern Ireland; 1939-1945

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The effects of World War II on Northern & Southern Ireland; 1939-1945

Daniel McCarthy (Visiting Student)

Student Identification Number: 08102474

The Two Ireland’s in the 20th Century 0809-HI 208.E

John Cunningham

Word Count: 2,990

13 March 2009

Daniel McCarthy 1

Throughout the time period of 1939-1945, the two countries of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland found themselves in two different positions in regards to participating in World War II. Northern Ireland, which was controlled by the United Kingdom, played a vital role in helping defeat the Axis powers through its strategically located position and its manufacturing abilities. While the Republic of Ireland lead by Taoiseach Eamon de Valera vowed to remain neutral and keep its citizens out of war. While completely different in ideologies, did the two different countries share any similar experiences throughout World War II? A vast range of similar and differencing experiences occurred to these two Ireland’s collectively throughout 1935-1945. Overall, while the Republic of Ireland formally remained neutral and Northern Ireland continued to fight, both of the Ireland’s different philosophies and approaches helped garner new experiences and identities on an international stage.

To understand the experiences and philosophy of the Republic of Ireland during World War II, the past must be analyzed to realize their decision for declaring neutrality. Ireland’s neutrality lineage can be dated back to 1914 when organizations such as the Irish Neutrality League promoted such nationalist slogans as, “Neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland!” (Murphy 9). Prior to World War II beginning, the Republic of Ireland found itself in a less than desirable position. Ireland fought the British for independence from the years 1919-1921 in the Anglo-Irish War and subsequently again from the years 1933-1938 in the Anglo-Irish Trade War. This twenty year period left the Republic of Ireland in a state of political reconstruction and economical recession. Resulting from this, a “Guaranteed Neutrality” clause was added to the “Draft Treaty A”. Irish delegate Erskine Daniel McCarthy 2

Childers explained that an independent Ireland would, “stand alone, like the vast majority of small nations, with complete independent control of our territory, waters and forces, neutral in all wars and devoted to peaceful development” (Murphy 10). Moreover, the experiences of these amounting conflicts resulted in Ireland wanting to rebuild its own infrastructure and nation rather than become entangled in conflict, on any scale. A few philosophies existed in the Republic of Ireland supporting neutrality, in particularly de Valera leadership for remaining neutral the entirety of the war. To de Valera one of his earliest conclusions was that it would be “completely foolish” for a small nation like Ireland, to volunteer and become a belligerent country. Thus, welcoming hardships in his eyes were not necessary or needed. Alongside this, de Valera used the partition of Ireland to explain remaining neutral by offering, “we believe that no other position would be accepted by the majority of our people as long as the present position exists” and also explaining, “The continued existence of partition, that unnatural separation of six of our counties from the rest of Ireland, added in our case a further decisive reason” (Murphy 14). This nationalist feeling portrayed from Southern Ireland was that it must no longer be involved in “England’s Wars” and allow for Ireland to create their own sovereignty (Murphy 9). These experiences prior to World War II offer a brief synopsis as to why de Valera continued to remain out of the war: to protect Ireland’s best interest. This ideology of self preservation and neutrality would be the driving force behind Ireland’s experiences throughout World War II. While de Valera and Fianna Fail

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continued on its path of...
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