A Comparative Critique of the Practice of Irish Neutrality in the 'Unneutral' Discourse

21 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2008

Date Written: November 17, 2008


This article takes a comparative, empirical look at the practice of Irish neutrality during the World War II. It critiques a model of neutrality presented in a thesis on Irish neutrality called Unneutral Ireland, consisting of factors derived from an analysis of three states regarded as well-established European neutrals, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland that reflect the practice of neutrality. That model focused on the rights and duties of neutrality; the recognition of Ireland's status by belligerents and others; the disavowal of external help; and the freedom of decision and action. This present article focuses on the factors flowing from these latter obligations that are cited in an analysis of the practice of Irish neutrality, in the Unneutral thesis as proof of Ireland's 'unneutral' status, i.e. ideology; involvement in economic sanctions; partiality; the practice of Irish citizens joining the British army; and post-World War II factors such as Ireland's EEC membership. In this article, Ireland's practice of neutrality is evaluated against the practice of other European neutral states - Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Finland (including Norway's truncated practice of neutrality) - vis-a-vis the above variables. This article also deals with the perennial myths that crop up in 'unneutral' discourses on Irish neutrality, for example, the oft-cited incidence of de Valera's alleged visit to the German legation in Ireland to sign a book of condolences on Hitler's death and the suggestions of a British government offer of a deal on Northern Ireland in exchange for Ireland dropping its neutral stance and supporting the Allies in World War II. The article concludes that the practice of Irish neutrality is equivalent to or superior to the practice of other European neutral states, thus undermining the dominant discourse that Ireland's neutrality is a myth and that Ireland is 'unneutral'.

Keywords: Neutrality, Ireland, discourse, World War II

JEL Classification: N44

Suggested Citation

Devine, Karen, A Comparative Critique of the Practice of Irish Neutrality in the 'Unneutral' Discourse (November 17, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1302925 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1302925

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