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For a while now I've been intrigued by a radio programme put out by BBC Ulster. It involves two historians, one Catholic and the other Protestant, looking in various controversial aspects of Ireland's past. Apparently, they usually have different takes on events. Sadly, the episode I heard, on the Irish Republic's neutrality in the Second World War (and, yes, I know it was called Eire at the time) they agreed. They agreed that neutrality was the wisest course. But the programme did a very very poor job of examining the issues. Yes, thousands of Irishmen fought for Allies. But there was no mention of the decades of official persecution the 5,000 men who absented themselves from the Irish armed forces to fight the Nazis faced from the Irish government after the war. Yes, Eire exported food to the United Kingdom. But it was the only export market they had and they didn't exactly sell the food cheaply. Yes, folk in Donegal did help build the new Royal Navy facilities on Loch Foyle, but again they didn't do it for free. And it would have saved a lot of time and money if the De Valera government had allowed the Allies to use Irish ports during the Battle of the Atlantic. It was not mentioned that more than half of Eire's population wanted Hitler to win or were certain he would until far into the war. The arguments for Irish Neutrality could equally well be used to justify a British surrender in 1940. As the war went on, Eire's neutrality tilted in favour of the British. But then even the De Valera government knew which country was in the best position to invade them. The Irish Republic deserves no more praise for its application of neutrality than the Swedes and Swiss deserve blame for their pro-German stance in the early years of the war. And lets not go into whether De Valera's official condolences to Germany on Hitler's death in 1945 could be justified as simply diplomatic protocol - other European leader felt the same obligation. I can only think that this sad attempt at history on the wireless was somehow down to some politically inspired desire not to rock the boat in the Northern Ireland of 2018.

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