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

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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 Daniel McCarthy 3 ontinued on its path of neutrality, Northern Ireland would in time experience a different emergence onto the national stage of politics. The story of Northern Ireland and World War II reveals quite a different experience in comparison to the Republic of Ireland. At the beginning of the war, Northern Ireland experienced little preparation or sense of concern in being drawn into the violence of World War II. On one account a Belfast diarist described her native city as, “probably the pleasantest place in Europe.

We are unbombed, we have no conscription, there is plenty to eat and life is reasonably normal. ” (Barton 48). Mainly, this lack of preparedness and sense of urgency was blamed on Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister Lord Craigavon. Craigavon, was criticized by many as too old and ineffective of a leader to prepare for what many predicted as a very turbulent future for Northern Ireland (Farrell 154). However, Northern Ireland was not initially included in plans from Westminster legislation because they decided that Northern Ireland had no military significance to the allies’ forces.

Northern Ireland in the upcoming years would experience a shift from having little importance in World War II into that of a crucial manufacturing city that also supplied Britain with a labor force and acted as a strategically located base (Second World War Online Learning Resource for Northern Ireland). Within the first seven months of 1939, Northern Ireland would begin to transform into a country ready for war. Belfast was quickly noted as not being adequately utilized; with a large number of the population unemployed and its valuable location, measures were quickly put into action to use Northern Ireland’s location.

First, Westminster Daniel McCarthy 4 legislation would grant government contracts worth more than ? 6m for equipment which included bedding, battledress, and electrical wiring (Second World War Online Learning Resource for Northern Ireland). While these new initiatives were meant to help the Allied forces, it also helped to a degree curb down Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate. In 1938, the number of unemployed in Northern Ireland was a staggering 91,000. However, with the unemployed working in the shipyards and other various jobs this number eventually curbed down to 77,000 by 1940 (Farrell 161).

Furthermore, Northern Ireland would begin to see other changes occurring through its country at the beginning of World War II. The rationing of food followed by the introduction of an identity card system, restrictions on travel, the censorship of mail and telephone calls, governmental controls on the press, the imprisonment of male enemy aliens, the formation of a local home guard and Auxiliary Territorial Services were introduced to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland over night was quickly transforming into a society to contribute to the war.

Due to these escalations and output from Northern Ireland, it soon became a point of interest to the Axis powers and its role in aiding the Allied forces (Second World War Online Learning Resource for Northern Ireland). As illustrated before, a discussion was made which showed the reasons as to why the Republic of Ireland remained neutral throughout the entirety of the war. However, how neutral was Ireland’s experience throughout World War II? The Republic of Ireland and de Valera were formally considered to be neutral but they did assist Northern Ireland and the Allies on numerous occasions.

Whether sending meteorology reports to help assist coordination of the invasion of Normandy or sending aid and fire trucks to Belfast Daniel McCarthy 5 after heavy German air raids, these covert operations clearly assisted the Allies (Girvin 25). But, de Valera and Ireland did experience and receive negative feedback throughout the war. De Valera did censor Holocaust images from Ireland and also ceased news radio shows only limiting war reporting’s to brief paragraphs in the paper.

Furthermore, German and Japanese embassies remained functioning in Dublin during de Valera’s reign. But then again, Ireland was supposed to be an impartial and neutral country. Once, an American historian for the New York Times stated that de Valera’s nation had, “missed out somehow on the greatest moral issue of modern history” (Murphy 13). How can the Republic of Ireland’s experience in remaining neutral be summarized throughout World War II? Fianna Fail and de Valera believed that by staying neutral it would preserve Irish sovereignty and indeed save Irish lives.

Winston Churchill even made vague promises of reuniting Northern and Southern Ireland at the United Kingdom’s most vulnerable time to de Valera if Ireland joined the Allied forces effort. In a telegram Churchill stated, “Now is your chance. Now or Never, a Nation once again. Am ready to meet you at any time. ” (Farrell 172). De Valera declined Churchill’s offer, knowing that in desperate time’s promises aren’t necessarily kept. But how did all of this affect the Republic of Ireland?

Ireland’s experience throughout World War II was neutral but they did indirectly aid the allies’ troops through employment, covert operations, and thousands of Irish volunteering as Allied soldiers. Perhaps, through this experience, de Valera and Ireland contributed more to World War II and the United Kingdom through formal neutrality and covert operations as opposed to having the Daniel McCarthy 6 majority of Ireland, who disapproved of entering the war, being a negative belligerent presence (Murphy 15).

While Ireland remained neutral; Northern Ireland continued to build its military presence and differed in many experiences that Ireland didn’t endure. After Germany took over France in June 1940, Northern Ireland became the most important bridgehead for protecting Atlantic shipping lanes (Second World War Online Learning Resource for Northern Ireland). Northern Ireland became increasingly paranoid that Germany was planning for an invasion. Similarly, de Valera was worried at the beginning of the war of a United Kingdom invasion or even a German one or most importantly being drawn into the war by the United Kingdom.

But his fears of being drawn into war were subsided when in 1938 the British government returned key ports to Ireland in part of the Anglo-Irish Agreements. But, in Northern Ireland these fears would act as a catalyst for the nation which instructed/designed evacuation routes, ordering blackouts, and the creation of bomb-shelters. By the early 1940’s Belfast in Northern Ireland was considered a large military stronghold with over 100,000 British troops by April 1940’s (Second World War Online Learning Resource for Northern Ireland). This affected not only the economy but the demeanor of Northern Ireland.

People of Northern Ireland feared and opposed conscription but the Westminster government understood that already strong resentment from Catholics and even Protestants was not worth the conscription trouble. Additionally, Catholics and Protestant hostility still existed and IRA members still sporadically bombed London but sectarianism did decrease (not by much) among these two Northern Ireland groups (Barton 52). Daniel McCarthy 7 When comparing the two Ireland’s and their experiences throughout World War II, there is a stark difference between the two and the physical damages incurred.

Throughout April and May of 1941, Germany began air raids specifically targeting Belfast docks and factories. The casualties and expenses were immensely damaging to Northern Ireland. From these raids an estimated 900-1,100 died, 56,000 houses were badly damaged, 3,200 totally destroyed, and roughly 100,000 people were left homeless (Barton 50). In comparison to the Republic of Ireland, which “mistakenly” was bombed May 30, 1941 on Dublin’s north side by Germans only endured 41 causalities and seventy houses were damaged (Second World War Online Learning Resource for Northern Ireland).

Here, we can see a clear difference between Northern and Southern Ireland. Northern Ireland quickly rose as an important military base while Southern Ireland remained neutral and relatively untouched. How would these events affect the two countries in the long term? One of largest shared experiences between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland throughout World War II would be the matter of emigration and contributing to Britain’s war-time effort. The Republic of Ireland, as much as they wouldn’t like to admit it, relied heavily upon the United Kingdom’s economy.

This was clearly illustrated through the Anglo-Irish Trade Wars, which crippled the Irish economy when the Irish decided to ban British imports and in turn the British retaliated by heavily taxing all Irish imports. 90% of Ireland’s exports were to Britain and British consumers ceased purchasing these goods which devastated Ireland’s economy (Connolly 119). It can not be denied that the success of the Republic of Ireland’s economy was linked to the Daniel McCarthy 8 strength of the United Kingdom economy.

By 1939, thousands of Irish migrated back to Ireland in fear of being drafted into the British army through conscription acts. However, in 1940 Lord Beveridge from the British Manpower Commissioner realized that over 8. 5 million peoples were needed to work in the munitions factories (Connolly 123). Britain realized the need for Irish labor and the Irish understood that their economy was only as strong as the United Kingdom’s. Westminster permitted the temporary citizenship, labeled, “conditionally landed” which exempted Irish from conscription for two years while working overseas (Connolly 125).

The Republic of Ireland mainly helped facilitate and “encourage” the emigration of Irish to Britain while the United Kingdom forced an economical conscription upon Northern Ireland. Official statements revealed from the Republic of Ireland, It seems a reasonable view that if they cannot secure normal employment here during the present emergency conditions, which will probably grow worse, the Department should not refuse them the facilities and assistance when they seek to earn their livelihood elsewhere. Girvin 26) Here, the Republic of Ireland realized that during these economically difficult times that both Ireland’s were facing it was better to have Irish work in Britain rather than be unemployed in Ireland. Britain mandated this “economic conscription” which gave little options for many Northern Ireland citizens. However, the main consequence was that by 1945 the number of unemployed dropped to 16,000 (Farrell 160). Many reasoned that “economic conscription” was a better means to an end in comparison to being drafted to fight. Daniel McCarthy 9

Mainly, both the North and South experienced a large migration of its population over to Great Britain. Between the years 1939-1946, net emigration was estimated to be around 189,942 which was a 13. 9% increase of emigration from Ireland from the prior decade. Many feared that this massive migration to Britain would lead to Irishmen and women to adopting British socialist values and abandoning Christianity. Between the years 1941-1945, wages in Britain increased 20% which was a main driving force behind these massive numbers of immigration (Connolly 126). But what did these two Ireland’s experience?

They witnessed a higher income for citizens as allotments were sent back to Ireland to rejuvenate the economy and bring down the unemployment rates. Overall, the economy became stronger and Ireland contributed (indirectly) to the Allied forces eventual victory. Overall, what can be said about the two Ireland’s experience throughout World War II? First, let us observe and summarize the Republic of Ireland. Right from the beginning, de Valera and his people opposed war for many reasons. Decades of fighting with the British along with a reconstructing economy coupled as major deterrents for joining the war.

The Republic of Ireland would be one of twenty nations that declared neutrality at the beginning of the war and be one of the five that remained true to their declaration. But what were the benefits and disadvantages that came along with neutrality? For one, Ireland didn’t sustain a large population loss after World War II ceased. Unlike other countries that lost thousands or millions of troops, Ireland’s causalities were nominal in comparison. Furthermore, Ireland experienced a feeling of relative safety from stronger powers amongst the world.

But what are some of the Daniel McCarthy 10 disadvantages that the Republic of Ireland experienced? Along with de Valera and his orders of censorship, many Irish were left clueless as to the Holocaust happenings and the surroundings around them. Furthermore, the Republic of Ireland faced constant suspicion and hostility from Allied nations, in particularly the United Kingdom. Churchill once announced shortly after Allied victory, “…if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland, we should have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr. e Valera, or perish from the Earth” (Ireland during the Second World War). However, these types of verbal assaults were expected and de Valera did rebuttal. As for the Northern Ireland experience from World War II a much different picture can be painted. Northern Ireland seemed to have gotten swept up into the madness of the war. Belfast, one of the most important bases for the Allied forces took on responsibilities that it never had before. For the main part, many Irish resented Northern Ireland’s participation in the war, particularly Catholics.

But, a rapid decline in unemployment helped Northern Ireland experience better economical times. In comparison to the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland experienced more as an outcome of the war. It was actively participating in the war and even helped guide Northern Ireland into it’s most prosperous times with relations to the United Kingdom during the 1950’s and 1960’s (Farrell 152). All in all, Northern Ireland proved capable and useful to the victory of the Allied forces in World War II. In conclusion, who faired better with their approach to World War II.

The Republic of Ireland, while neutral, was able to maintain a stable government and did witness improvements in their economy. On top of this, it sustained minimal causalities Daniel McCarthy 11 and also was able to reap many of the benefits that came along with the Allied victories. Had the Republic of Ireland been included into the war than it is for certain that German invasion would of occurred due to a weak military presence and lack of organization. Northern Ireland, while its experiences were vastly different to that of the South’s it had to rebuild and continue serving under the United Kingdom.

Overall, both Ireland’s witnessed and endured hardness but ultimately the Republic of Ireland and their stance on neutrality won in the long run when comparing the two Ireland’s. Daniel McCarthy 12 Works Cited Farrell, Michael. Northern Ireland: the Orange State. Pluto P, 1973. Ireland During the Second World War. 10 Mar. 2009 . Murphy, John A. , Brian Girvin, Brian Barton, and Tracey Connolly. Ireland & The Second World War Politics, Society, and Remembrance. Ed. Brian Girvin and Geoffrey Roberts. Dublin: Four Courts, 2000. Second World War Online Learning Resource for Northern Ireland. Ed. NIMC Second World War. 11 Mar. 2009 .

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The Effects of World War Ii on Northern & Southern Ireland; 1939-1945. (2018, Feb 01). Retrieved from

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