How was Irish neutrality justified?

In World War II, few European nations remained neutral. For those nations which did refuse to take sides against the Holocaust and the Third Reich, different explanations can be plausibly given. These range from a fascist government as in Spain, or extreme proximity and susceptability to German military might as in Switzerland,
however neither of these were the case with Ireland.

Ireland was not facist however; and isolation, and the shield of Great Britain protected Ireland from the direct threat of military occupation or severe aerial bombardment.

So, how did Ireland justify not coming to the aid of Catholic France or Poland? Or allying themselves with the many Irish in America who did war against evil? Especially after June 1944, when victory for the Allies was almost certainly assured, and the full extent of the atrocities of the Holocaust were unable to be denied?

Has Ireland ever apologized for not taking a stand against the worst evil of the twentieth century?

Alternatively, the heavy fist of Great Britain that had subjugated the Irish for 300 years (with a history of lesser occupations extending back for a few hundred years prior to that) had only been lifted fewer than 20 years earlier and there was no reason for Ireland to belive the Germany had designs on their island–or the portion of it that was not still under British domination (from the perpective of many Irish). Ireland wanted nothing to do with allying itself with Britain that soon after reclaiming its independence.

While you’re looking for apologies, you might want to ask the same question of Sweden that actually had an army (as Ireland did not).

Hmm several theorys , however what it boiled down to was that for seven hundred years Ireland was conquered state , from their prospective , what was the big hurry to join an old enemy to fight an ally from the previous war.

I have no knowledge if Ireland was a facist or non Facist government at the time , even if it was a democracy in name , more than one country admired Franco, or Mussolini. However GB did not protect Ireland against aerial bombardment , what it did do was to protect the sea lanes of communication between north america and the UK, if your gonna blame the Irish ,that would have been a better reason.

In dealings with the Irish Goverment , the British and probably the american governments respectfully requested basing rights in Ireland , for Sunderland Flying Boats ,that would have extended the Anti U-boat patrols out ,maybe to the Dead zone , or at least made life more difficult for the Uboats transiting , between France and the happy times.The De Valera govt refused citing neutrality. The British got around the problem via basing those A/C in Belfast and other parts of Ulster

Ireland as a nation , was neutral in the War , however Irishmen themselves signed up in British regiments and naval detachments, as well as the expats signing up in Allied countries. Its possible that war fatique from the first world war , sapped the leadership in so many countries , that if you were not involved , why get involved. Add to that , I am thinking that the last thing De Valera wanted was a large body of men under arms , even under the Irish Flag.

Hmm, why should they.

Has Switzerland , Sweden , Portugal , ever apologized ?


Why yes Declan, Switzerland has apologized (in 1995) for its wartime actions.

Really ,lol

What a bunch of choclate heads (shakes head)


Sweden was neighboring Nazi occupied Norway and was constantly under threat of military occupation, no such threat was forcing the hand of Ireland’s foreign policy.

During World War II, Portugal was an authoritarian dictatorship as much as Spain or Germany. The Portuguese government is now democratic and has thoroughly distanced and separated itself from tyranny.

But Ireland was a democracy at the time and there is a direct line of continuity and tradition from today’s government to the leadership structure of the 1940s.

And besides since when has any nation required peer pressure to be justified to do the right thing?

What kind of moral ethics is it to say that you have no responsibility to apologize for being complicit in evil because it is possible to find other people in the world who have committed evils almost as horrifying who have also not yet come forward to apologize because they are waiting for you to make the first move?

Switzerland has actually apologized twice.

Apology #1.

Apology #2.

And, furthermore, I highly doubt that Roosevelt would have allowed (or been allowed) Great Britain to use Irish entry into World War II to reannex Hibernia, especially since the top leadership of the Democratic party was filled with Irish, and Roosevelt required the support of the Irish (especially in World War II) to win reelection. If Roosevelt had allowed anything of the kind, he would have faced a major revolt within his own administration, let alone within his support in the country.

And besides, in 1941 Churchill was willing to take allies on any terms he could get them. He even said that he would have given Satan a warm welcome if he could have him as an ally against Hitler. I am sure that Ireland could have nominally gone to war without facing any risk at all.

Instead, De Valera used WWII as an opportunity for Ireland to get rich off of the misery of the world.

Sounds like you just wanted to rant on this issue. As I noted, Ireland had no army or navy or air force. Declaring war on Germany would have invited German aggression that Ireland may have felt it had no way to repel.

There were incidents of Ireland tolerating German espionage under the cover of Ireland’s neutrality that may be a legitimate issue for discussion. However, Ireland would have been in far more danger from Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarineattacks than an armed Sweden was in danger from an already overextended Wehrmacht, so it still appears that you are more interested in condemnation than discussion.

The Celts have been defending thier Island for more years then I can think of off the top of my head. They had just attained independance from Brittan after a 300 year forced colinization. And prior to that they spent another several centuries fighting off another invading force. There has not been peace for the Irish in nearly 1000 years. The Irish were not nuetural for any other reason then the inability to mobilize an army anywhere but on home soil. As for not letting the Alies use Ireland for a base, they just got them off the Island, what makes you think they were going to turn around and let them put thier military back in place, or even open that door a crack. You may not understand, but then again, you’re not of Celtic blood or you would.

Ireland along with Portugal offical sent condolences (to Germany) when Hitler died.

I recall the Chicago Tribune did a blazing editorial at the time calling the action of Ireland outrageous. Ironically they were far softer on the Portuguese noting that after 1943 they cooperated with the Allies on bases etc.

Unlike Switzerland or Sweden, Ireland was not under threat of invasion after the Battle of Britian and certainly never like Sweden or the Swiss. While they did cooperate with the Nazis to a degree if they didn’t the Nazis would have simply taken over and been able to do no good.

Switzerland has never apologized for its neutrality, just for their treatment of Jews, which was appalling. Their record toward Germany was perfectly consistent with acceptable political calculus of the time.

And anyone who thinks the DeValera government would, even for an instant, have considered alliance with Britain simply hasn’t studied history.

A semi-related question here. I seem to remember a movie that had as part of its plot the Irish neutrality during WWII. Well, in the movie, there were both Allied and Axis military personnel who had the misfortune to eject from their aircraft/wash ashore from their vessels but ended up on Irish territory. Again in the movie, the Irish government kept everyone of them prisoners in Ireland and did not repatriate them.

I’ve no idea how to narrow down the search term to get a manageable number of results to answer this question. So the question: Is there even a tiny grain of truth to the story’s plot?

Monty, the film is incorrect. Axis combatants were detained, Allied prisoners were quietly slipped across the border. This page gives an accurate summary of Ireland’s wartime stance.

One other point to note about the original post’s question was that not only had Ireland recently ended British occupation, it had recently fought a civil war over the exact terms under which that occupation was ended, and the acceptability of links with the UK.
Ireland’s policy in WWII was one of “benevolent neutrality”, that greatly favoured the Allied side. More Southern Irish fought in the British armed forces than Northern Irish, for example, and there was massive sharing of military intelligence.Most historians agree, this was about as far as De Valera could go … any more formal alliance with the UK would likely have led to a renewed Irish civil war. (Not that De Valera was necessarily inclined to a more formal alliance anyway, but it simply wasn’t an option for him).

And in the spirit of the original post, have the Americans ever apologised for not bombing Auschwitz ?

I don’t know about this particular case, but generally speaking, it’s the way things work. Military personnels (or warships) who somehow end up in a neutral country are usually interned in said country rather than repatried.

Well, I suppose someone has to point out that even the US remained neutral until it was directly and massively attacked. (It did provide ‘aid and assistance’, often concealed, but so did many neutral nations). I’d be careful about invoking a ‘moral responsibility to take action against the greatest evil ever known’.

The movie Monty saw is probably The Brylcreem Boys, and is of course fictionalised.

This is in contrast to what williambaskerville asserts, and I haven’t a specific cite, but a couple of years ago I heard a radio documentary on RTE, featuring interviews with Allied WWII soldiers who had been interned in an Irish camp near the Curragh, Co. Kildare. The terms of their imprisonment were that they had to sign a document promising not to escape. They were kept in open conditions, and allowed to visit the local town for a pint of Guinness and Irish stew, etc. Particularly for the British airmen/soldiers, this was a beneficial arrangement, since they had previously been suffering rationing, whereas in Ireland they could have as much meat and potatoes as they could afford, in addition to not having to fight.

According to the documentary, only one allied serviceman ever tried to escape: a Canadian pilot, who was apprehended in London (?) and returned to Ireland, where he was sent to Coventry by his fellow inmates.

How long these arrangements went on before they were passed back to the Allies was not mentioned.

The Axis prisoners, by contrast, were kept in the same camps, but segregated behind barbed wire and in standard POW conditions.

Slight Hijack: Can anyone point me to a history of how Iceland got involved in WW2? I recall an anecdote that during the war Allied forces stationed there outnumbered the entire native population!

Iceland got involved when American Marines , ahem , secured the Island from the threat of possible german invasion. Being a protectorate of Denmark which was then occupied , Iceland was held in trust for the Danish Govt, and became a stop over for bombers heading up from gander newfoundland , to the UK.

As well it was a place where survivors of sunk convoy ships could be dropped off , without having to go back to england or north america.


In addition to not wanting to join Britain in anything, their neutrality could be justified the same way the US did until we were attacked. It ain’t our fight.