Few outside of Ireland could understand the neutral stance of the Irish Free State during the war. Churchill most certainly did not when he said:
“Owing to the action of Mr de Valera, so much at variance with the temper and instinct of thousands of Southern Irishmen who hastened to the battle-front to prove their ancient valour, the approaches and the Southern Irish ports and airfields could so easily have guarded were closed by the hostile aircraft and U-boats. This was indeed a deadly moment in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland we would have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr. de Valera or perish forever from the earth.”
De Valera can claim little credit for offering condolences to Germany on the death of Hitler, but his response to Churchill is generally accepted as one of his finest moments and generated huge support and pride in the Irish Free State.
“It is indeed fortunate that Britain’s necessity did not reach the point when Mr. Churchill would have acted. All credit to him that he successfully resisted the temptation which, I have no doubt, may times assailed him in his difficulties and to which I freely admit many leaders might have easily succumbed. It is indeed; hard for the strong to be just to the weak, but acting justly always has its rewards.
By resisting his temptation in this instance, Mr. Churchill, instead of adding another horrid chapter to the already bloodstained record of the relations between England and this country, has advanced the cause of international morality an important step-one of the most important, indeed, that can be taken on the road to the establishment of any sure basis for peace.”
On 3 Sept 1939, de Valera addressed the Irish nation outlining why Ireland would maintain neutrality.
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