Monday, January 25, 2010

A Clever Plan

Recession, floods, snow, water shortages. But it could be worse. What if we were about to be invaded?

Seventy years ago - in 1940 - Ireland faced the prospect of invasion: and not just by the Germans. In his thought-provoking book What If? Alternative Views of Twentieth-Century Ireland Diarmaid Ferriter reminds us that Irish defence forces were so weak (no anti-aircraft weapons, no armoured vehicles and just 7,000 poorly armed soldiers) that the British government worried they might have to invade the Free State in order to 'protect' it from a German invasion. Going so far, Ferriter explains, as to issue tri-colour armlets to British soldiers based in Northern Ireland at the time.

But the Irish had a clever plan - as we are reminded by the delightful map above from Strange Maps - namely to dissuade any prospective invader by making the country seem so unattractive as to not be worth the bother of invading. And it worked, apparently. Which is why I'm free to write about it and you're free to read about it.

Puts our own problems in perspective, come to think of it.

(BTW: if you like alternative Irish history then you'll enjoy the RTE archive of 'What If?' lectures from recent years.)


  1. Irish neutrality - a panicky expedient rushed through a terrified Dail that the rose-tinted spectacles of time has transformed into high-minded nobility. In fact it was cowardice, and Ireland will never wipe away the stain of de Valera's condolences at the German Embassy on the occasion of Hitler's suicide. I will always be ashamed of our neutrality in the Second World War and so should any thinking person.

  2. It is naive to comment on Irish Neutrality as cowardice, firstly it was necessary to ensure that Ireland did not get destroyed by German bombing raids and secondly the British and allies did receive 'intelligence' and implicit support from the Irish government.

    Though it is also worth considering in the context of Irish history, De Valera would have been executed after the 1916 rising only for he was fortunate enough to be born in the US and public reaction to the initial executions.

    Neutrality was necessary for the infant Irish state to survive and survive it has, we lived to fight another day.

    Though it is also worth noting that a considerable number of Irish men died in the second world war, indeed my neighbours mother never saw her dad as he was killed in action before she was born.

    There is plenty of other things to be ashamed of happening today in the Irish state, I suggest we focus on them and address the things we can change.


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