Blueshirts and fascists


Sir, – Una Mullally refers to what she describes as “the fascistic, far-right ideology” of the Blueshirts, which was one of the organisations which merged to found that party in 1933 (Opinion, August 12th). The lazy and oft-repeated contention that the Blueshirts were a fascist group is something which has effectively been debunked by historians.

There is virtually no evidence that the organisation drew any inspiration from fascist parties in Europe, or that its grassroots membership had any affiliation to fascist ideals. In fact, judging by its own stated aims, the Blueshirt movement seemed to draw its primary inspiration from the papal encyclical “Quadragesimo anno” published by Pope Pius XI in 1931 which, far from being fascist in origin, warned of the dangers to human dignity and freedom from unrestrained capitalism and industrialisation and advocated a corporatist approach to organising society.

Primarily, however, the Blueshirt movement did not spring from any lofty international ideology, but was essentially a spontaneous counter-reaction to the political events of the day, namely the attempts by the IRA to disrupt meetings of the Cumann an nGaedheal party, and the devastation caused to beef-exporting farmers by the economic war with Britain.

It is certainly true that in later life, after the end of his frontline involvement in Irish politics, the Blueshirt founder Eoin O’Duffy was eager to associate himself with international fascist groups. But this alone does not retrospectively mean that the Blueshirts or its members – numbering some 30,000 – were fascists.

Nowadays, the word “fascist” is thrown around like confetti and seems to be used as a general term of abuse for anyone who sits to the right of Jeremy Corbyn on the political spectrum.

Given the appalling and despicable horrors which fascism visited on this continent in the last century, I would have thought that your newspaper should strive to be a little more discerning in how it uses this highly loaded term. – Yours, etc,


Clontarf, Dublin 3.