Irish Brigade ‘fought on wrong side’ in Spain

Ted Neville recently wrote (Jun) asking us to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the return of the Irish brigade from the Spanish Civil War.

It might occur to people that this is out of date and not relevant today, however, conflict shapes us all and, our attitudes to that war need to be examined.

Ted claims, rightly, that many churches were destroyed and about 7,000 clergy killed. This anti-clericalism, along with an alleged international Jewish-Masonic-Bolshevik conspiracy, or the term used frequently by Franco ‘contubernio’ (filthy cohabitation), were used to justify the rebellion that the Irish Brigade supported. It is now very clear that there was no such conspiracy and that as the war progressed the anti-clericalism disappeared in the zone controlled by the elected government. For example, by Aug 1937 churches in Barcelona were being re-opened.

Ted fails to say that the rebellion supported by the Irish Brigade also killed clergy, especially Basque priests. However, it was the systematic terror used by the rebels that is most abhorrent; they murdered systematically up to, and after, the end of this war. There was repression in the elected government zone as well but the two are on a wildly different scale; the rebels killed 124,831 in comparison to the 47,213 in the government zone.

Should we celebrate the return of the Irish Brigade? Well, no, but perhaps we ought to apologise to the Spanish people for being on the wrong side.

Paddy Sleeman



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