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World War II: Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera's Speech on Irish Neutrality

(December 12, 1941)

[As monitored by the B.B.C.]

Here, in Cork district, you have in combination all the dangers which war can inflict. You are a very important point. Your military and marine defences cannot be too carefully organized nor too fully manned. You are a populous city. Your A.R.P., plans for evacuation, for shelters, for black-out, for fire-watching must be fully worked out and the personnel for your A.R.P. services, etc., recruited to the strength necessary and thoroughly trained and practiced. If war comes upon us, it will come as a thief in the night. Preparations to meet the danger will not bring it nearer. It may help to avert it. And if the attack should: come, our preparations made in advance will mean the saving of thousands of valuable lives. If the attack struck us unprepared it would mean confusion, unnecessary loss and perhaps defeat.

Since this war began our sympathy has gone out to all the suffering people who have been dragged into it. Further hundreds of millions have become involved since I spoke at Limerick fortnight ago. Its extension to the U.S.A. brings a source of anxiety and sorrow to every part of this land. There is scarcely a family here which has not a member or a near relative in that country, in addition to the ties of blood, there has been our two nations a long association of friendship and regard, continuing uninterruptedly from America's struggle for independence down to our own. The part which American friendship played in helping us to win the freedom we enjoy in this part of Ireland has been gratefully recognized and acknowledged by our people. It would be unnatural, then, if we did not sympathize in this total manner with the people of the U.S.A. and if we did not feel with them in all the anxiety and trials which this war has brought upon them.

People who do not understand our conditions have asked how America's entry into the war will affect our neutrality here. The policy of the state remains unchanged. We can only be friendly neutral. From the moment this war began, there was, for this state, only one policy possible, neutrality. Our circumstances, our history, the incompleteness of our national freedom through the partition of our country, made any other policy impossible. Any other policy would have divided our people and for a divided nation to fling itself into this war would have been to commit suicide. When we adopted the policy of neutrality, we had no illusions about it. We knew the difficulties and dangers. We are fully aware that, in a world at war, each set of belligerents is over ready to regard those who are not with them as against them; but the course we have followed is a just course. God has been pleased to save us during the years of war that have already passed. We pray that He may be pleased to save us to the end. But we must do our part.

It is the duty of our men to enroll themselves in the national services. We need all our manpower for defence. For the military and ... we need a quarter of a million men.

The economic and social problems would tend to become, like the military situation, more and more difficult as time went on and we became more and more isolated. We must become more and more united as a people. It is of primary importance to make sure of the nation's food. I would ask the Parish Councils and the other parish organizations to make it a special concern of theirs to look after stores of food and emergency feeding. With the new turn in the war and America's entry into it, we may not be able to get enough supplies from abroad.

All our efforts should be bent toward securing the quantity required. A great national effort will also be necessary to provide the fuel we shall need. We cannot afford idleness, waste or inefficiency.

When we have done our best, we can, as a united people, take whatever may befall with calm courage and confidence that this old nation will survive and if death should come to many of us, death is not the end.

Sources: ibiblio