Michael Collins, 1922.

Ireland and the War

ALONE among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Eire has not followed Great Britain into the war against Germany. This is bound to leave a deep imprint on the relations between the two countries. Indeed, Irish neutrality may well have an important influence on the course of the war. The strategic proximity of Eire to Britain and to the principal British sea lanes must inevitably create problems never before confronted by English statesmen.

Not least among the factors complicating Anglo-Irish relations is the partition of Ireland into two unequal parts -- the twenty-six counties of Eire and the six counties of Northern Ireland. The Six Counties are in most ways an integral part of Great Britain. They are at war with Germany. Recruiting goes on there actively: two old and famous regiments have headquarters there, and another -- the North Irish Horse -- is being revived. Goods come and go to Great Britain free of customs duty, as they go from Glasgow to London. Yet there is one difference: conscription is not imposed in Northern Ireland, and will not be without the consent of the parliament at Belfast. In law, no doubt, the Imperial Parliament has the right to impose it; in practice it wisely abstains from doing so. And the Belfast parliament will be held back from imposing it by the knowledge that one third of its population, the Catholic minority numbering some 400,000, would resist it by all means.

Yet that same Catholic population -- like the entire population of Ireland, Catholic or Protestant -- detests the names of "Hitler" and of "Nazi" as fervently as any community in Great Britain. None the less, the Catholics who comprise nine tenths of all the inhabitants of Eire have decided to be neutral. I must endeavor to make plain what this means.

The Irish Times -- a leading Dublin paper which up to the Irish Revolution was Unionist -- said wittily and wisely that Eire is, by her own choice,

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