Churchill obsessed with Irish D-Day leaks

British PM described German presence in Dublin as an ‘abominable state of things’

Winston Churchill was disproportionately obsessed with the possibilities of security leaks from Ireland in the run-up to D-Day, a conference heard yesterday.

The wartime British prime minister contemplated acting against Ireland to remove the German legation from Dublin and asked for advice on how it could be done.

Trinity College Dublin hosted a conference yesterday to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings which occur on June 6th.

TCD professor of contemporary history Eunan O’Halpin said Churchill took an interest in even banal memos from Axis legations in Dublin and had to be reassured on many occasions that the threat of a security leak was minimal.


In 1943 Churchill wrote to his deputy prime minister Clement Attlee complaining that the German legation in Ireland was still being allowed to operate its radio. Attlee had told Churchill that the radio was necessary as part of the deception of the Germans.

Churchill wrote back saying the continuing presence of the German legation in Ireland was “an abominable state of things”.

He advocated taking action against “southern Ireland” and said any move to remove the legation by force or otherwise would be “immediately considered by me”.

“Their [the Irish] conduct in this war will never be forgiven by the British nation unless it is amended before the end. This in itself would be a great disaster. It is our duty to save these people from themselves.”

Dr Steven O’Connor, who has just published a book on Irish officers in the British Forces, 1922-1945, told the conference that one Irish officer had a key role in planning for the invasion.

Capt Rickard Donovan from Wexford became the deputy director of the Combined Operations Division which was charged with co-ordinating the role between land, sea and air forces during the landing.

The conference also heard from Brian Stewart (92) who had been part of the Black Watch who went ashore the day after D-Day.

Mr Stewart recalled that it was hard to see the sky for the number of aircraft and barrage balloons. “When you think of all those little things that could go wrong, it is amazing that it worked,” he said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times