FSL historian Lyons had a phrase for it. One of the things that got him embroiled in one of the frequent debates was that Irish society was forever divided. In his epic, Ireland Since the Famine, he argued that Ireland’s neutrality during World War II was mythical and regressive. Lyons wrote: “It was as if an entire people had been condemned to live in Plato’s cave, turning their backs on the fire of life.”
Published in 1971, this wonderful book became a critically acclaimed work. It has done more to bring the previous century of turmoil and change perspective than most others. It was later overshadowed by Joe Lee’s 1989 masterpiece, Ireland: Politics and Society.
But when Lyons pops up on college student reading lists these days, it’s common to dig up that controversial quote again.
Neutrality has never been less than a hotly discussed point. The invasion of Ukraine means that it is not simply a dry point of scholarly interest. It is an ever more provocative and divisive topic.
Lyons took issue with Éamon de Valera’s isolationism in the 1940s and today’s discussion, on the surface, seems very similar. But the difference is that Ireland discussing it now – and Europe it is a seamless part – is very different from 80 years ago.
In the decades immediately following independence, neutrality made perfect sense. US President Woodrow Wilson’s doctrine of self-determination for small states is the main theme. The League of Nations – undermined by the spread of fascism in the late 1930s – was in principle, if not always done, to conform to this ideal.
Our neutrality is grounded in this very concept, as de Valera explains. When war broke out in Europe, Ireland stood aside, as did a very long list of other countries.
While Lyons considers this a disaster, there is no doubt that there is great hostility among the people of Ireland over sending Irish boys to cannon fodder for the second time in 25 years. The new war was seen as another dirty imperial scramble. Dáil was equally emphatic.
Current theory allows for easy reinterpretation, given what we learned about Nazi Germany later. But Lyons’ mention of Plato’s cave – an allegory of intellectual withdrawal and moral cowardice – is much more relevant to today’s discussion.
Those who express disgust at the thought of Ireland disparagingly conforming themselves to what they call the West are caught in a war of lazy time.
This view still sees Ireland as a repressed colony after thinking. A convenient tool of the great powers,
The reality is that Ireland is an inseparable and integral part of the West, not only through its enthusiastic membership of the EU and its core economy, but also in its values, culture and goals. it.
Ireland’s exceptionalism about being a permanent victim – a favorite game of old school nationalists – is superfluous. Ukraine is our European neighbor. The time we climbed out of Plato’s cave and saw the light.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/neutrality-served-us-well-but-were-grown-ups-now-41421302.html Neutrality served us well, but now we’re adults