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There has been much commentary on Éamon de Valera infamous condolences to the German ambassador on the death of Adolf Hitler, 70 years ago.
It was a grossly insensitive act by the Taoiseach, even if the extent of Nazi-perpetrated genocide and war crimes wasn’t known in April, 1945. But de Valera was following established protocol for the death of any head of State whose country had a legation in Ireland.
In de Valera’s defence: 1) Ireland was a non-combatant in World War Two; and 2) despite our neutrality, de Valera allowed the quiet return of captured Allied airmen who crashed in Ireland, while detaining Luftwaffe pilots. He secretly let Allied aircraft avail of the Donegal corridor, and useful military intelligence was passed to the Allies throughout the war.
A vital weather report from Blacksod Bay, in County Mayo, for example, was conveyed to the British, preventing a delay that might have altered the outcome of the make or break D Day invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. And the government sent ambulances and fire engines to the North when the Germans bombed Belfast and Derry in 1941.
Aside from this, I am not impressed by the supposed abhorrence of British and American politicians and diplomats at de Valera’s expression of sympathy to the German ambassador to Ireland, Eduard Hempel, given that both countries offered their official condolences to the Soviet authorities when Joseph Stalin died in 1953.
Stalin, like Hitler, was a ruthless dictator and mass murderer. Anyone who as much as whispered against his barbarous rule could expect a bullet in the back of the neck or a long stint in a gulag.
Between executions, forced labour, mass ethnic deportations, and deliberately engineered famine in the Ukraine, up to 20 million people perished during his reign of terror.
The Western nations displayed a blatant lack of consistency in honouring this cruel, homicidal oppressor in death, and he was a one-time ally of Hitler. Stalin is credited for his major role in the defeat of Hitler, but he only fought him because the Germans invaded the USSR and, for the opening hours of Operation Barbarossa, refused to believe that his dictatorial friend had betrayed him.
So, let’s not get too carried away with de Valera’s admittedly ill-judged gesture.
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