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In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality, 1939-45 [Paperback]

Robert Fisk
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 26.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Mar 1985
When the Union Jack was hauled down over the Atlantic naval ports of Cobh, Berehaven and Lough Swilly in 1939, the Irish were jubilant. But in London, Churchhill brooded on the 'incomprehensible' act of surrendering three of the Royal Navy's finest ports when Europe was about to go to war. Eighteen months later, Churchill was talking of military action against Ireland. He demanded the return of the ports and the Irish made ready to defend their country against British, as well as German invasion. In Northern Ireland, a Unionist Government vainly tried to introduce conscription. Along the west coast British submarines prowled the seas searching for German U-boats sheltering in the bays; British agents toured the villages of Donegal in search of fifth columnists, while their German counterparts tried to make contact with the IRA. This is a fascinating study of Ireland during the Second World War. "Anybody interested in Irish affairs will have to get Fisk's book." - "Literary Review".

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In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality, 1939-45 + The Age of the Warrior: Selected Writings + The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East
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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Gill & Macmillan Ltd (1 Mar 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0717124118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0717124114
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 12.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Fisk is a bestselling author and journalist based in Beirut as Middle East correspondent of the 'Independent'. He has lived in the Middle East for three decades and holds more British and international journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent. His last book, 'The Great War for Civilisation', a history of his career and the numerous conflicts he has covered, was published internationally to great critical acclaim. He is also the author of 'Pity the Nation', a history of the Lebanese war.

Product Description

About the Author

Robert Fisk was Foreign Correspondent of the London 'Indepentent', based in the Middle East. He has won more than a dozen major international press awards and is the author of 'The Point of No Return' and 'Pity the Nation'. He now lives between Beirut, Paris and Dublin.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping account of Ireland during the war 20 Feb 2007
I thought I was quite well informed about modern Irish history and entitled to argue my opinions, but after reading this book I realised what a simplistic view I really had.

I found the book gripping and surprisingly readable. It kept luring me on, making me want to know and understand more about the terrible predicament that the Irish found themselves in. Of course, the Irish experience during the war was better than any of the combatant nations, but the dilemma facing the Irish was unusual and very difficult. Their closest neighbour and most important trading partner, was also their ancient traditional enemy (from the perspective of Irish nationalism) and was fighting a war against an unspeakably evil regime. There was no solution for the Irish government that was both principled and would keep the former Irish Free State united (technically it was known simply as Ireland at this time).

Fisk makes clear the problems faced by de Valera's government and ultimately it is hard to say that this often charmless bunch called it wrong. The Irish state emerged from the war free and safe, but still without Northern Ireland. One can easily argue that they should have joined the fight for civilisation, but after reading the book I certainly couldn't agree. De Valera just didn't have the option. Joining the war on the Allies side would have torn the country apart.

Fisk's account makes the major combatants look unprincipled, in the case of Britain (and Churchill in particular) and plain daft, in the case of the Germans and their naive reading of Irish history and the Irish political situation. However, principled behaviour is seldom a realistic option when the future of the nation is at stake, a fact that de Valera and Churchill were both keenly aware of.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Robert Fisk's excellent book is the best work on Ireland during the Second World War. Whilst Northern Ireland (as part of the UK) was fully involved in the Allied campaign, the former Irish Free State (now Republic of Ireland) remained neutral. Fisk's research is meticulous. Any serious student of 20th century Irish history must read this book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read, but worth the effort 2 Mar 2011
By oldhasbeen VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is serious, detailed history about a neglected aspect of UK / Irish history. I've read a lot of WW2 history and Irish history, but the majority of this book was new to me.

As other reviewers have noted, none of the main protagonists come out of the book unscathed. To simplify, de Valera was frequently devious and obsessive, Churchill bombastic, the Northern Unionists manipulative and the Germans incredibly naive and ill-informed.

De Valera's government certainly made their mistakes, especially the crass decision to pay a visit to the German embassy to pay their respects after Hitler's death, but was their strategy wrong? The Irish state in 1945 was relatively unscathed, even if without Northern Ireland. If they had joined the Allies, would a united Ireland have resulted after an Allied victory? I'm not convinced, and there was a very high probability that doing this would have started something near another civil war.

One irony of this period is that the agreement to hand back the Treaty Ports probably strengthened the hand of the northern Unionists by increasing Britain's dependence on their ports.The Unionists exploited this to the hilt both during and after the war, projecting a picture of "Loyal Ulster" that really doesn't ring true - their contribution to the was effort was very poor, with the exception of providing the ports (which they didn't have much choice about.) Another irony is that the northern Unionists gained so much politically (e.g. the late 40s declaration the the British government that there would be no change without the consent of the majority of Northern Ireland's population) despite its government during the war being staggeringly incompetent, especially in dealing with German air raids.

This book is very relevant to post-war Irish history, even up to today.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and readable. 29 Sep 1997
By rpc@iname.com - Published on Amazon.com
This book deals with Irish neutrality during the second world war. There are many myths attached to Irish neutrallity, stories of the IRA refeulling U-boats and threats of aggression from Britian. This book goes to the source and destroys the rumours, and holds up the facts. It also goes deeply into the political undercurrents that kept Ireland out of the second world war. Ireland held (in the first half of WWII) an extremely important strategic position. The british had abandonned three navy ports (against the advice of Winston Churchill) which would have protected the atlantic convoys against the german u-boats in 1938. Had these ports not been abandonned it is probable that the Irish could not have been neutral. The british only threatened to Invade the "Irish Free state" if they were being starved out by the U boat blockade, and would only have done this to re take the strategic ports. Interestingly the IRA were hunted down on both sides of the partition and several were hung in Dubblin during WWII. The IRA in NI were pro nazi, but there is no evidence for them helping in any significant way the Nazis. For students of Irish history this would make a very good begining point, the 1940's and WWII are not too distant in history and it looks back in enough detail to give the causes for the actions in the first half of the 1940's and sets the scene for the Irish declaration of the republic in 1947, and the subsequent absorbtion of NI into the UK in 1949. Another interesting fact is how the german bombings of Dubblin and Belfast had an enormous effect on the population there. Although light in comparison to the treatment dealt out to English cities the population of belfast was terrified into sleeping outside in the countryside. The population of Dubblin, far from being incensed at the germans bombing them, held tighter to neutrallity. Also of interest is the fact the Roseavelt wanted to invade Eire to use the strategic ports. This book destroyed alot of myths for me, and let me understand the politics of the Island alot better.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Star research, some flaws 24 Sep 2006
By Albert Doyle - Published on Amazon.com
This is an invaluable book for anyone interested in the subject of Irish neutrality during WW II. Fisk, the great British journalist reported for the London Times from Belfast from 1972 to 1975 and has a PhD from Dublin's Trinity University so he knows something about Ireland although the book also reveals his lack of understanding of and sympathy for Catholic Ireland and, oddly, its people, who play little part in the book, probably because Fisk himself is a "little Brit" who at the time he wrote the book anyway apparently thought all moral righteousness was on the allied side (although he mentions allied firestorm civilian bombings of Dresden, Hamburg etc. only in very, very brief passing, seemingly believes all the Nuremburg atrocity stories even though many have now been discreetly discredited and dropped, and seems to think the Spanish civil war involved noble good guys who lost fighting "fascism" -- in other words he seems to have been been somewhat of a lefty). His more recent writings seem to take a more balanced and negative view of our recent warfare and its ugly details.

He also seems from time to time not able to make up his mind about the interpretation of events. Example: In summing up De Valera's stubborn and successful defense of neutrality which kept Ireland's people out of the horrors of the war he calls it "the abnormal nature of the political path De Valera had chosen to follow" at one point, then shortly later in criticizing Churchill's misunderstanding of the Irish viewpoint he says, "the Irish were in the very process of regaining their soul -- their political independence -- by remaining neutral". The book is replete with this kind of thing. As an Irish fisherman watched the allied aircraft passing overhead on the way to the Normandy invasion beaches he says "The war was passing Ireland by!" Too bad for the unlucky fisherman?

But this kind of thing does not detract from the essential fair reporting and massive research in this book. It will not please partisans of extreme Irish nationalism nor British imperialism and Ulster sectarianism on the other hand and supplies much interesting historical information. In his usual style Fisk speaks the truth to power and lets the chips fall where they may.

My conclusion is that Eamon de Valera comes out as a greater figure than for Fisk wishes to give him credit. He kept his people out of a horrible, bloody war in which there was no nobility although Fisk seems to think God was on the British side. I think He was at Dev's side.
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