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EIRE: With American Money!

4 minute read

Efforts of the Irish nation to tame itself and settle down climaxed at Dublin last week with tense drama in the Dail. Everyone remembers how after World War I the untamed, scraggly-haired, wild-eyed figure of Eamon de Valera barnstormed among Irish groups all over the U. S., spouting treason to George V, proclaiming himself “President of the Irish Republic” and passing the hat for its “Irish Republican Army,” whose stalwarts the British Government treated as “common criminals, murderers and cutthroats.” Today, tame and respected Eamon de Valera is a shrewd conciliator of Great Britain and a pillar of the League of Nations. He hopes his battles are over and that he is safe as Prime Minister of Eire, but the diehard Irish Republican Army has refused all these years to surrender its arms, fights on with recklessly placed time bombs and other murderous weapons of savage conspirators. As soon as World War II broke, the I. R. A. again raised that most popular of all Gael slogans, “England’s difficulty will be Ireland’s opportunity,” and the Irish war for a Republic was on again—with the usual solicitation of funds from wild Irish in the U. S. Things got really serious last month when 150 I. R. A. stalwarts stole 1,084,000 rounds of ammunition and numerous guns from the Phoenix Park Arsenal of the de Valera Government (TIME, Jan. 8). That looked as though the phantom Irish Republic might soon come to life with a real Army and try anything from a coup d’état — sure to be bloody in Ireland — to civil war. As the Dail assembled last week for emergency action, James M. Dillon, M. P. exclaimed:

“I believe the ultimate end of the activities of these gentlemen [I.R.A.] must be assassination. God knows how many of us may be the victims!”

That “jackets of American dollars” now finance the I. R. A. was charged by Minister of Justice Gerald Boland in the Dail. He said that $8,000 in U. S. bills was found on a single I. R. A. trooper, but when M. P.s wanted to know who in the U. S. is sending all this money, he snapped: “We have a shrewd idea, but we don’t want to mention names!”

The de Valera Cabinet, continued its Minister of Justice, was quite unable last week to recover the munitions stolen from Phoenix Park, as they had no idea where these were, but they proposed instead to arrest wholesale every member of the I.R.A., which has been outlawed for the past three-and-a-half years. Up to now the Eire Constitution has prevented anyone arrested merely on suspicion from being held more than 48 hours without evidence, but Minister Boland introduced bills sweeping away this safeguard to civil lib erties, and in effect making Eamon de Valera a dictator, with powers to have anyone arrested and held indefinitely on suspicion.

“There will be only one Government functioning — that one freely elected by the people!” cried Prime Minister de Valera in a fighting speech. In the lobbies of the Dail, meanwhile, it was whispered that I. R. A. plans were for a combined insurrection and war to overthrow the Governments of both Eire and Northern Ireland, sweep away the intervening fron tier and proclaim the Irish Republic — a move which Great Britain would certainly answer by sending an expeditionary force to Ireland as she did to crush the “Easter Rebellion” of 1916. Thus what members of the Dail faced last week may well have been a mortal threat to the whole structure of Anglo-Irish friendship-&-trade which has been slowly erected in the past decade.

Since the I. R. A. has more than once killed prominent Irishmen who voted to suppress it, the Dail strove to protect its members’ lives by balloting in secret last week, and the vote was announced as 82-to-9 favoring de Valera’s emergency bill. The Senate followed 62-to-7, and straight way de Valera sent out 5,000 Special Police armed with rifles to hunt down the I. R. A. All ports of Eire and the frontier with Northern Ireland were carefully manned and police with rifles took over what amounted to military guard of the State.

“We can handle the situation, no doubt about that!” cried the Prime Minister. “We are at the parting of the ways, and the will of the people must prevail, for this is a free country. . . . We shall use force if necessary!”

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