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Southern Ireland and the Liberation of France

New Perspectives


Edited By Gerald Morgan and Gavin Hughes

This collection of essays sets out to correct an injustice to citizens of the Irish Free State, or Twenty-Six Counties, whose contribution to the victory against Nazi Germany in the Second World War has thus far been obscured. The historical facts reveal a divided island of Ireland, in which the volunteers from the South were obliged to fight in a foreign (that is, British) army, navy and air force. Recent research has now placed this contribution on a secure basis of historical and statistical fact for the first time, showing that the total number of Irish dead (more than nine thousand) was divided more or less equally between the two parts of Ireland.
The writers in this volume establish that the contribution by Ireland to the eventual liberation of France was not only during the fighting at Dunkirk in 1940 and in Normandy in 1944, but throughout the conflict, as revealed by the list of the dead of Trinity College Dublin, which is examined in one chapter. Respect for human values in the midst of war is shown to have been alive in Ireland, with chapters examining the treatment of shipwreck casualties on Irish shores and the Irish hospital at Saint Lô in France. Other essays in the volume place these events within the complex diplomatic network of a neutral Irish Free State and examine the nature and necessity of memorial in the context of a divided Ireland.


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Edward Arnold Irish Neutrality between Vichy France and de Gaulle, 1940–1945 23


EDWARD ARNOLD Irish Neutrality between Vichy France and de Gaulle, 1940–1945 Any discussion of Irish neutrality during the Second World War deals with a number of historical narratives and perspectives that have been studied at length by historians.1 A dominant viewpoint is that Irish neutrality was both symbolic and pragmatic. Symbolically, asserting the state’s neutrality represented a statement of sovereignty and independence of action from Britain, which was a fundamental tenet of the ruling Fianna Fáil party’s political project.2 Indeed, neutrality during the Second World War was seen as ‘the ultimate expression of Irish independence’3 and one of de Valera’s greatest achievements.4 Any other policy, such as joining the war on the 1 Joseph T. Carroll, Ireland in the War Years (Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1975); Ronan Fanning, ‘Irish Neutrality – an Historical Overview’, Irish Studies in International Af fairs, 1, no. 3 (1982), p. 27–38; Robert Fisk, In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality, 1939–45 (London: Deutsch, 1983); Brian Girvin and Geof frey Roberts (eds), Ireland and the Second World War: Politics, Society and Remembrance (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000); Michael Kennedy and Joseph M. Skelly (eds), Irish Foreign Policy, 1919–1996: from Independence to Internationalism (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000); Dermot Keogh and Mervyn O’Driscoll (eds), Ireland in World War Two: Neutrality and Survival (Cork: Mercier Press, 2004) and Clair Wills, That Neutral Island: A History of Ireland During the Second World War (London: Faber, 2007). 2 Brian Girvin, ‘Politics...

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