Twice in a day! Malcolm again rethinks: this time about puffing the RTÉ1 programme on Ireland’s Nazis by relying on pre-publicity in “news” items. This led Malcolm to reflect more widely on Irish anti-semitism.
First, though, Malcolm accepts the main thrust of Cathal O’Shannon’s argument (that post-war Irish Governments chose to turn a blind eye to some dubious immigrants). However, he would also wish to draw attention to the comment now attached to the end of Tuesday’s posting. Dan Leach, a PhD candidate at Melbourne University (not, as Nicola Tallant attributes, a “professor”) feels he and the subject have been substantially misrepresented. Malcolm wants a balance for Leach’s correction, rather than it being tucked away in a footnote.
Tallant quoted “research” on Nazi atrocities perpetrated by Célestin Lainé (who also bretonised his name as Neven Hénaff), leader of a Waffen SS unit, the Bezen Perrot. Notice that the wikipedia article is prefaced by a “neutrality” warning: it does seem to depend more on asseveration than attribution. Here, repeated from that “comment”, is Leach’s telling complaint about Tallant:
This is my actual quote from the script of Ireland’s Nazis (Programme One), courtesy Tile Films:
“The former head of the Breton nationalist party Raymond Delaporte reportedly had an interview with De Valera in which De Valera advised him to continue using the aliases with which he’d entered Ireland so that then if the French asked De Valera is this man in the country De Valera could truthfully answer “NO”.”
That became this in The Sunday Times article:
“Dan Leach of the University of Melbourne reveals that the former head of the Breton Nationalist Party met de Valera to discuss Lainé. ‘De Valera advised him (that Lainé should) continue using his alias so that if the French asked him if Lainé was in the country he could truthfully answer ‘no’,’ Leach said.”
Two different people; two different subjects of discussion. There is no evidence De Valera ever met Bezen Perrot leader and militant Breton collaborator Célestin Lainé (aka Neven Henaff). The discussion was between De Valera and Raymond Delaporte, and ‘Dev’s advice was for Delaporte alone. I certainly did not mention Lainé in this context, as can be plainly observed.
Delaporte was a moderate nationalist, so obviously his meeting with De Valera lacks the kind of sensationalist verve Tallant requires to beat up her story.
‘Nuff said. Malcolm has warned Leach that apologetics and corrections are not common for either the Sunday Times or the Indy. So far that warning stands.
However, that does not undermine O’Shannon’s case. The sad truth is that neither Saorstát nor new-fledged An Phoblacht were squeaky clean. And Catholic orthodoxy, especially in regard to intermarriage, ensured Jewish (and other minority) emigration over the years [see below].
Let Malcolm have a run at it, with some of his “guilt-by-association” notions.
He has previously pointed to the totalitarian, even Nazist, sympathies of some of those around De Valera, in particular Joseph Walshe and Frank Aiken. Now for a couple more gargoyles:
- Let’s start with Charles Bewley. Yes, it’s coffee time, but this was the black sheep of an honourable family. Bewley converted to republicanism and catholicism, was Irish ambassador to the Holy See, and most significantly (1933-39) representative in Berlin. Under Bewley’s control, Irish visas for fleeing Jews were minimal (one estimate says just 60 were issued between 1933 and 1946). His commentaries back to Dublin are very revealing. He defended the Nuremberg race laws; knew of no “deliberate cruelty” to Jews; and regarded Jews as the “wrong class” for admission to Ireland. De Valera dismissed him only at the outbreak of War. Bewley then functioned as one of Goebbels’ PR-men. In 1945 (this is a good story, and also on wikipedia) he fell into the hands of the British Army in north Italy. He showed his expired Irish diplomatic papers. This made him a major embarrassment to Dublin and London (the “Lord Haw-haw” business being current). The solution was to issue him a new Irish passport, with the description “a person of no importance”. Bewley’s vanity meant he never felt able to cross another frontier. He was effectively marooned in Rome for the rest of his days, where he improved the idle hour by penning a biography of Goering.
- Bewley was, alas, not alone. As James Lydon (once Malcolm’s tutor) has pointed out:
… prejudice was evident when attempts were made to persuade the Irish government to offer asylum to Jewish refugees. When the Irish Coordinating Committee for Refugees was established in November 1938, at a time when many Jewish refugees were desperately trying to escape from Nazi persecution, it decided that only Christian refugees were to be accepted into Ireland.
- Another ball of wind was Oliver Flanagan, later a Fine Gael Minister. He got himself elected to the Dáil on a blatantly anti-semitic ticket. He compounded this with his maiden speech [Proceedings of the Dáil, 9 July 1943]:
How is it that we do not see any of these Emergency Orders directed against the Jews who crucified Our Saviour 1,900 years ago and who are crucifying us every day of the week? How is it that we do not see them directed against the Masonic Order? How is it that the IRA is considered an illegal organisation while the Masonic Order is not considered an illegal organisation? There is one thing that Germany did and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair’s breadth what laws you make. Where the bees are there is honey and where the Jews are there is money.
And even De Valera himself? Let’s leave aside unseemly doings of 2 May 1945:
I have noted that my call on the German Minister on the announcement of Hitler’s death was played to the utmost. I expected this. I could have had a diplomatic illness, but, as you know, I would scorn that sort of thing. … During the whole of the war, Dr Hempel’s conduct was irreproachable. He was always friendly and invariably correct — in marked contrast with [US Ambassador] Gray. I certainly was not going to add to his humiliation in the hour of defeat.
Malcolm liked the well-written, wry put-down in John Cornwall’s Hitler’s Pope. This passing mention at the “no expense spared” 1939 coronation of Pius VI borrows from Douglas Woodruff, editor of The Tablet, but is otherwise unhelpful:
Two by two, the princes, ambassadors and distinguished representatives of the nations then processed down the south nave in glittering regalia to take up their positions on the left of the high altar. Among them the Prince and Princess of Piedmont; the Count of Flanders; the Duke of Norfolk, representing the United Kingdom; two ex-kings, Ferdinand of Bulgaria and Alfonso of Spain; Joseph Kennedy, American ambassador in London and foremost Boston Catholic, representing the United States; Paul Claudel, the poet and dramatist, representing France; and “rather oddly”, as Woodruff noted, Eamon De Valera, the prime minister of Ireland, walking in step with Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law and foreign minister, who later caused a rumpus at having been placed below the Duke of Norfolk in the procession.
The general impression is that De Valera himself was free of antisemitic prejudice. Indeed, prejudice sometimes went the other way: John Devoy, whose US Clan na Gael financed the IRB, the Easter Rising and the War of Independence over decades, disliked De Valera:
Devoy wrote of de Valera, “This half-breed Jew has done me more harm in the last two years than the English have been able to do during my whole life.”
De Valera included an acknowledgement of the Jewish community in the famous religious clause of his Constitution. Indeed, let it be remembered, he had reasons for gratitude. Chief Rabbi Herzog took De Valera in at 33 Bloomfield Avenue, Portabello, repeatedly, when he was “on the run”: this was fundamental to a continuing friendship. As an aside, Malcolm recollects one morning, still bleary, he switched on BBC’s Today programme, to hear a well-modulated, mellow, bourgeois Dublin voice (for Malcolm, the essence of good English enunciation). It took a while to untangle the accent from the topic: it was the voice of the President Chaim Herzog of Israel, Belfast-born, Dublin-schooled son of the former Chief Rabbi Isaac.
Which brings Malcolm to Dublin’s most famous Jew, Leopold Bloom, now given sociological status with an academic tome, Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce: A Socioeconomic History by Cormac Ó. Gráda (a very recent review on-line here). He also has a walk-on part in Professor Dermot Keogh of UCC’s Jews in Twentieth-Century Ireland: Refugees, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
And Bloom brings us to Ireland’s blackest bits of anti-semitism. Bloom (Chapter 2, part 2) is in Barney Kiernan’s pub. The ultra-nationalist Citizen asks him, “What is your nation?” Bloom answers: “Ireland… I was born here. Ireland.” The situation quickly deteriorates:
Gob, the citizen made a plunge back into the shop.
–By Jesus, says he, I’ll brain that bloody jewman for using the holy name.
By Jesus, I’ll crucify him so I will. Give us that biscuitbox here.
The significance of this is the Citizen is carrying copies of The United Irishman. In January 1904 (six months before Bloomsday) Arthur Griffith had approved the Limerick Pogrom. Limerick, low, grey and damp, is one of Malcolm’s least favourite towns, an impression going back way before Frank McCourt (sometime teacher of English at Stuy to Malcolm’s son-in-law) put the boot in. However, “pogrom” is giving the event, a sad, even tragic event, greater significance than it deserves. A young priest, a product of French antisemitism at the time of the Dreyfus affair, preached a sermon (pace Oliver Flanagan above): this provoked a two-year boycott of Jewish traders, who eventually moved to Cork (intending to ship to New York) where they were made welcome. Hence, a story from Robert Tracy:
… a prominent Jew from Cork [Gerald Goldberg, Lord Mayor of Cork], a descendant of the Limerick diaspora, … was interviewed on Irish television in the 1970s as part of a series examining the treatment of minorities in the Republic. Asked if he had personally experienced prejudice, he replied, “Oh yes. Yes indeed,” and then, after a pause, added, “In Dublin, you know, they always have the knife out for the Corkman.”
The Limerick Pogrom could easily be forgotten, except … for one Stephen Coughlan. As Lord Mayor of Limerick, Coughlan (cue voice of Neil Kinnock: “A Labour Mayor! A Labour Mayor!”) twice in a month showed an incredible brutality of mind. Here’s Coughlan (as in The Irish Times of 13 March 1970) reacting to a gun being fired at Limerick’s Little Red Bookshop:
Limerick has always been known for its Christian outlook, its charity, but anyone in Limerick could have seen this trouble coming. The Maoist bookshop has been a deliberate provocation. The people of this city abhor the introduction of these people who are completely opposed to our Christian tradition.
That’s to be taken in connection with a speech a month later (quoted in The Irish Times of 20 April 1970):
I remember when I was a very young boy … the problem of the Jews in Limerick. A Father Creagh, in his courageous way, declared war on the Jews at Killooney Street which is now Wolfe Tone Street. The Jews at that time, who are now gone, were extortionists … I remember an unfortunate woman was having a baby and they came getting their five shillings a week … scourging her … they took the bed from under her.
Well, murmurs Malcolm, it’s all water under the bridge. Ireland, North and Republic, has far greater issues of prejudice and integration today.
The end-note must be the terminal (?) decline in Irish Jewry: like the other religious minorities (Protestants have declined from 10% of the population before Home Rule to just 3% in 1991), their numbers shrunk over the years. Dublin’s fine Greenville Hall, once a synagogue, now houses a technology company (image at the head of this post).
In the first instance the attrition was because the Catholic Church effectively enforced conversion on marriage. Moreover:
The founding of the State of Israel in 1948 prompted an exodus from Ireland. “Irish Jews have always been very Zionistic,” explained [Raphael] Siev, [the Jewish Museum in Dublin’s founder and curator]. “In fact, today there are more Irish-born Jews living in Israel than in Ireland.” The third hemorrhage, ongoing from the 1960s, is emigration for better economic and social opportunities. “The young leave because there’s no Jewish life for them here, and because the good jobs are overseas,” said Siev. Parents practically force their children out of Ireland, to England, Israel or the U.S., so they can meet and marry other Jews.
Siev puts the Jewish population in all Ireland at no more than 1,200.