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Benevolent Neutrality

– Some of the ways that Ireland adapted to being surrounded by the waring nations. – 

This is a short presentation of some the known participation and assistance given by the Irish authorities to the Allies during the war. Before going on however, may I first point out that I am in no way making a case that Ireland should be thanked for this, or that we were front line players in the defeat of Germany! Some people like to make excuses for Ireland's not taking part in the war, I will address those issues else where on this site, here however I do present some of the participation that was given.

Despite being officially neutral, Ireland was, in it's policies, pro-allied and this shows in a lot of the stories to be told here. We up-held a policy of "benevolent" neutrality, in that we looked after our own interests during the war, and it was in our best interests for most of that time to placate the Allies. This kind of policy caused much debate it seems during the war both in Ireland and in the belligerent countries. Even today Ireland's 'neutrality' causes much debate, this article being first started at the start of the 2003 Gulf War for example.

Donegal Corridor

War time defense planning

Irish - Allied intelligence co-operation

Reporting of air and Shipping movements

Aid to Blitz refugees and evacuees

Donegal Corridor

Allied forces were stationed through out the war in Northern Ireland, and in particular significant naval and airborne anti submarine forces were based there. With the lack of bases in Southern Ireland, there was a build up of air and naval forces in 1941 and 1942. A large force of naval patrol aircraft were based in the province and these were tasked with the all important tasks of escorting the vital supply convoys across the north Atlantic and carrying the war to the German U-boat threat. One large base for this forces was Lough Erne in County Fermanagh. (See map). The Castle Archdale and St. Angelo would require aircraft there to take the long circuit up and around the County Donegal border before heading out into the Atlantic. The shortest route was of course west which unfortunately took them over neutral Irish territory. On January 20th 1941, following a particularly tense time on Anglo-Irish relations, DeValera agreed with Maffey, that allied flying boat aircraft could over fly Irish territory in to Donegal Bay. This was first used in February 1941 and in August of that year was extended to include 'land aircraft'. The extension may have been to take account of the opening of the St. Angelo base at Enniskillen. This corridor allowed the allied forces to have extra time on station and most importantly, provided a means to relieve British pressure at a troublesome time. The talks for this had taken place however some time before hand.

Reporting of air and Shipping movements

Robert Fisk, In Time of War, Gill and McMillan, 2000 Edition;
John P. Duggan, Nuetral Ireland and the Third Reich, Lilliput, 1989;
Eunan O'Halpin, Defending Ireland - The Irish State and its enemies since 1922, Oxford University Press, 1999
Editors: Brian Girvan & Geoffrey Roberts, Ireland in the Second World War, Four Courts Press, 2000
Editors: Dermot Keogh & Mervyn O'Driscoll, Ireland in World War Two - Neutrality and Survival, Mercier Press, 2004
The Irish Sword - The Journal of the Military History Society of Ireland , 1993