Documents on Irish Foreign Policy Volume 7

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Documents on Irish Foreign Policy Volume VII, 1941-1945

DIFP VII commences with neutrality firmly established as the central tenet of Irish foreign policy during the Second World War.

Michael Rynne, Legal Adviser at External Affairs wrote in 1942 that ''Ireland does not base her neutrality on any particular document or documents'', instead ''simple commonsense [was] ''the surest guide of all in the more or less trackless desert of the ''neutrality law'' of modern warfare'').

The volume provides the clearest and most accessible explanation, through original sources, of the rationale underpinning Ireland''s wartime neutrality.

Neutrality was strongly influenced by Taoiseach and Minister for External Affairs Éamon de Valera''s belief that as a small powerless state Ireland could not take part in great power quarrels and that Ireland''s independence would only suffer if the country was drawn into the world war.


There was also the very real fear that participation in the war, particularly at Britain''s instigation, would lead to renewed civil war in Ireland. That neutrality would enable Ireland to avoid civil war, maintain her independence and assert her international sovereignty is a key theme of the volume.

While certain aspects of neutrality, such as the preservation of Ireland''s sovereignty and that Ireland would resist militarily an attack from any quarter, remained fixed principles, neutrality could flex to accommodate responses to the changing fortunes of war around and over Ireland and was adapted as the international situation facing Ireland evolved.

Neutrality had wide public support and the policy enabled the Department of External Affairs to keep Ireland out of the almost five years of global conflict covered in this volume.

It is very clear from the volume that Ireland sought to remain neutral in the Second World War and that co-operation with the allies was a means towards that end rather than an end in itself.

The documents in volume VII of DIFP reflect the primary concerns of Second World War Irish foreign policy, in particular the maintenance of neutrality, and they accordingly prioritise British-Irish, Irish-American and Irish-German relations.

As the likelihood of Allied victory rose, Dublin had also to ensure that in the postwar world Ireland''s independence and freedom would not be dominated by the concerns of the great powers.

The Department of External Affairs and the Irish diplomatic service faced into a new and unexpected world in 1945, one they could never foresee in 1941.

The rise of the Soviet Union, the collapse of Germany, and the United States'' looming replacement of Britain and France as the western superpower saw Dublin worried that Ireland''s young international persona might be swamped utterly in the emerging new world system and that small states might simply exist as vassal states of the superpowers.

DIFP VII marks the beginning of a period of fundamental change in the nature and scope of Irish foreign policy which began in the final years of the Second World War and continued until Ireland became a member of the United Nations in 1955.

By beginning to anticipate the changing place of the nation state in the international order and exploring the limitations the world system placed on a state''s international sovereignty, these changes also began a process that would culminate in Ireland joining the then European Economic Community in 1973.

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The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.
 

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International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
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