Fascism And The Blueshirts

Sir, - In claiming my support for his non-fascist, "aggrieved democrat" description of the Blueshirt movement, Tom Garvin misquotes…

Sir, - In claiming my support for his non-fascist, "aggrieved democrat" description of the Blueshirt movement, Tom Garvin misquotes me (Opinion, January 12th). Here is what I in fact stated on the RTE programme on January 11th:

"They were influenced by a fascist leadership and I always regarded even the O'Duffyites who went to Spain - the ordinary fellows - as great victims of a great con trick. They were led into the position that they believed what they were fed - a dose of a `crusade for Christianity'. But I never regarded them as fascists - the ordinary Blueshirts."

Among the inaccuracies of the rather different statement that Tom Garvin attributed to me was his omission of my argument that the Blueshirt leadership was fascist. Tom Garvin argues that only some of them were, leaving the first President of Fine Gael, Eoin O'Duffy, to carry the can for the more respectable party leaders.

He is even more wide-of-themark in arguing that the blue shirt itself is misleading, adopting Mike Cronin's contention that a shirted movement did not necessarily mean an extreme right-wing one. What both of them choose to ignore is the fact that Fine Gael made it perfectly clear which shirted movement inspired it. On February 28th 1934, John A. Costello proudly proclaimed to the Dail:


"The Blackshirts were victorious in Italy and the Hitler Shirts were victorious in Germany as, assuredly, the Blueshirts will be victorious in the Irish Free State."

This statement was singled out for particular condemnation by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Sean Lemass, and the Minister for Finance, Sean MacEntee, who specifically asked of each and every Fine Gael TD:

"What sort of a victory has been won in Germany? The most sacred rights of the individual are being made subject and inferior to the presumed advantage of the race."

None of them answered the point. But when the Labour Party leader, William Norton, persisted in the same vein, Desmond FitzGerald finally exploded: "Deputy Norton made a gratuitous and wanton attack upon Italy, Germany and Austria. Such attacks are a disgrace to this House."

I am not arguing that we had a fascist Taoiseach in 1948. At some stage John A. Costello had concluded that the Blueshirt game was up, dropped his support for fascism and become something else. But to deny the fascist menace that he and the Fine Gael leadership had so enthusiastically articulated in 1934 is to render a disservice to history. - Yours, etc.,

Michael O'Riordan, James Connolly House, East Essex Street, Dublin 2.