Irish republicans and Nazi Germany

Historical context

Sir, – Stephen Collins (Opinion & Analysis, February 3rd) makes some good points about Ireland’s “neutrality”, in particular the need for an honest debate about our current defence requirements, but his contentions about Irish republicans and Nazi Germany during the second World War are wide of the mark.

Leading republicans – George Gilmore, Peadar O’Donnell and Frank Ryan – were openly concerned with the apolitical direction of the IRA under Seán Russell’s stewardship.

We do not know what Russell intended to do in August 1940 because he kept the details of his secret mission to himself. Had he landed in Ireland he would not have been able to do much – the IRA’s members and supporters were being rounded up and interned. They knew nothing about German intrigues.

Russell was not a Nazi. He was a militarist who went to Berlin for the same reason that he travelled to Moscow in 1923: to procure weapons from any source.


Strangely, his detractors never call him a communist.

Within the IRA, Brendan Behan, a prisoner in Mountjoy, vocally supported the Soviet Union’s war effort and the urgency of opening the “second front” in Western Europe. In the Curragh internment camp, Neil Goold and Michael O’Riordan did the same, and persuaded a number of their fellow internees to “sign out” and join the British armed forces. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 3.