Their sorrows in the present instance are also our sorrows
July 15, 2018 10:48 PM   Subscribe

In April 1941 only two decades after the rancor and bloodshed of the Irish War of Independence and its Civil War, with the cautious assent of the first Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland Éamon de Valera who had maintained neutrality from the Allies and the Axis, crews of volunteer firefighters crossed the border into the North (~40min podcast) to help battle the blazes ignited by Luftwaffe bombing in the Belfast Blitz.

posted by XMLicious (9 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Oh! I have never heard of this before! Thank you for this story.

In a couple of WWII mailing list communities I belong to, Ireland's neutrality kind of gets tip-toed around: we all like Ireland but everybody hates Nazis, and if you won't hate Nazis along with me, well.... *uncomfortable silence*

To me it's a reminder that I don't really know enough about Ireland's story (mostly in the last century) as an independent nation. I remember standing at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin and thinking to myself that the staue of The Children of Lir were figures from a 2000(?) year-old myth, and also a reference to 900 years of struggle between Ireland and Britain, and also a reference to the birth of the Irish Republic.

And heck, once I figure out all that, then I can read this story of brave men crossing into another country to help protect civilian lives in the middle of a war. Man, I am glad it's summer and I have some time!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:56 AM on July 16, 2018

This is an good an excuse as any to shill Odd Man Out, Carol Reed's film 2 before The Third Man. Filmed partially in Belfast in 1947.
posted by Damienmce at 7:24 AM on July 16, 2018

In a couple of WWII mailing list communities I belong to, Ireland's neutrality kind of gets tip-toed around: we all like Ireland but everybody hates Nazis, and if you won't hate Nazis along with me, well.... *uncomfortable silence*

And if you won't allow planes from the US civil air patrol to take off from Ireland in search of U boats, thereby giving the German Navy a safe zone to the west, and thus prolonging the battle of the Atlantic..
posted by ocschwar at 7:40 AM on July 16, 2018

Again, we all like Ireland (I went on honeymoon there!), so it's...difficult.

Efforts like this volunteer cross-border fire brigade are part of the reason that I think favorably of the nation as a whole: what a selfless act. No country is all good or all bad, and no people either.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:35 AM on July 16, 2018

When I was younger, I hadn't realized that Ireland had maintained neutrality in WWII, because a bunch of my dad's cousins from Kerry had been a part of the Normandy invasion. It wasn't until later that I figured out that they had just joined the British army or the RAF. There were at least some Irish who put aside their history with England and joined up with whoever would let them fight. And that helps, a little.
posted by curiousgene at 12:01 PM on July 16, 2018

"We like Ireland but hate Nazis!" is the kind of trite nonsense the internet has sadly foisted on us all. I really don't come to this site much anymore because the level of discourse has kind of sunk to this.

WWII wasn't hobbits vs Saruman. It was a continuation of centuries of European warfare and atrocities that many countries much prefer to stay out of. The US included for a good chunk of it. For a bunch of Americans to decide a whole country is Nazi lovers because they stayed neutral is almost as dumb as the comments made about Croatia on the World Cup threads.

The reality is that there were a huge amount of Irish who joined the British and other Allied armies in WW I and II. However when you consider that the British Army was almost simultaneously killing Irish people at home and had a recent and extensive history of a) committing atrocities of their own and b) using colonial regiments as cannon fodder, it is easy to understand why they were not allies and the Irish did not want their forces on Irish soil. Ireland has maintained that neutrality to this date btw.

Also fyi: Eamon deValera was an American. He was also a religious and cultural zealot who set Irish society back decades. He betrayed the native Irish born leaders of the war of independence and was all about consolidating his own power, above all.
posted by fshgrl at 2:07 PM on July 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

I may be a little harsh on deValera's betrayals I guess but history is not judging a lot of what he did kindly. He was a schemer, not a leader. He survived and out maneuvered everyone using whatever he could (including his US citizenship when it suited him) a lot of the time while in hiding or on the run. But he threw people under the bus without compunction and once he consolidated power he didn't do much with it except to install a religious fundamentalist state which is what really measures the man in my opinion.

One thing he did do was thoroughly stamp out the first hint of facism in Ireland when he banned the National Guard though
posted by fshgrl at 2:36 PM on July 16, 2018

[I'm coming to this thread late, but officially: let's focus on the Belfast Blitz, a plenty interesting topic unto itself -- rather than the (maybe unintentionally but still weirdly axe-grindy) tangential "how blameworthy are the Irish" spur we got onto earlier.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:08 PM on July 16, 2018

Thanks for this post. The The Second World War in Northern Ireland link shows a picture of a family member's home, in ruins in 1941 and obviously since repaired. I don't know if they would even be aware of the history of their house themselves, I certainly wasn't.
posted by ppl at 2:05 AM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

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