Bombs on Belfast, Part 4

Among the people of Northern Ireland, reactions tended to blame their government for inadequate precautions. Tommy Henderson, an Independent Unionist MP in the House of Commons of Northern Ireland, summed up their feelings when he invited the Minister of Home Affairs to Hannahstown and the Falls Road, saying “The Catholics and the Protestants are going up there mixed and they are talking to one another. They are sleeping in the same sheugh (ditch), below the same tree or in the same barn. They all say the same thing, that the government is no good.”

Another claim was that the Catholic population in general and the IRA in particular guided the bombers. Dr Barton, an expert on the Belfast Blitz, has written: “the Catholic population was much more strongly opposed to conscription, was inclined to sympathise with Germany”, “…there were suspicions that the Germans were assisted in identifying targets held by the Unionist population.” This view was probably influenced by the decision of the IRA Army Council to support Germany. As we have seen, German Intelligence had been very active in the Republic of Ireland, with both the Abwehr (the German military intelligence service) and the SD (the Sicherheitsdienst, the intelligence service of the SS) sending agents there.

There was a later raid on Belfast on 4 May; it was confined to the docks and shipyards. Again the Irish emergency services crossed the border, this time without waiting for an invitation. On 31 May 1941 German bombers bombed neutral Dublin.  German intelligence operations effectively ended in September 1941 when An Garda Síochána made arrests on the basis of surveillance carried out on the key diplomatic legations in Ireland, including the United States. I think this was a result of the Blitzing first of Belfast and the realisation that Hitler’s intentions in the South were not so benign as de Valera had first thought. During the First World War the German objective was to roll back the borders of the Latins and return to those of a more ancient Greater Germany. Protestant Britain was to become a German colony, Catholic Ireland an Austrian one. For Hitler the Second World War was merely an attempt to clear up the unfinished business of the First.

To be continued

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