The IRA was the main internal problem, and O'Halpin comments on the strength of Governmental repression, particularly during the years of the Second World War, when the IRA sought to involve the state with the Nazi cause. However, the Irish Government, as if embarrassed by its imprisionment of self-styled rebels, always seemed to soften as the danger passed. Thus, callous murderers, if they escaped hanging, get amnesty, and Government caution about its sources means it does not publicise the full facts. Thus, how the IRA betrayed Ireland to the Nazis was never fully exposed to the Irish people, allowing later Republicans to present themselves as well-meaning and maligned idealists. The effective Irish intelligence work during the War is one of the most interesting parts of the book.
A more recent example of Irish Government reticence is the extent to which it co-operated with the Northern RUC and British Army, and (the opposite) how it sometimes tried to manage terrorist violence for its own ends. The Arms Trial of 1970 is one example, a more recent one is the Omagh bombing where it is suspected that terrorist suspects were released in exchange for a 'cease-fire'.
O'Halpin's book is at its most effective at attacking the sacred cow of 'Irish neutrality', a unique Irish belief that such a stance makes us morally superior to the rest of the world. The fact that Ireland refused sanctuary to the Jews in the 1930s, and happily sold beef to any brutal third world dictator (e.g. Saddam Hussein, Colonel Ghaddafi) willing to pay is not germane in the Irish mind. The book exposes the hypocrisy by showing that the Irish governments calculated on NATO (or British) protection in the event of an attack, yet were also willing to posture as neutral, and spend only limited amounts on their own defence. Better that British or American boys die in our defence than risking our own.
One cause of this is the roots of the state itelf which almost succumbed to a military revolt at its inception. Hence the armed forces are kept small and starved of resources, with reliance on the police for anti-subversion work, except during the WWII
A recommended book on Irish history from a unique angle, worthy of a slow and considered read, even if the presentation is somewhat pedestrian at times.
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