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Published in: Society 2/2021

20-05-2021 | Forum Article: A Tale of Two Republics: Ireland and the Spanish Civil War

‘Oh Ireland! What a Disappointment You Have Been to the Basque People’: Irish Non-Intervention in the Spanish Civil War

Author: Niall Cullen

Published in: Society | Issue 2/2021

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Abstract

While Irish involvement on both sides of the Spanish Civil War has been comprehensively accounted for by historians, there remains the issue of the Irish government’s non-intervention in the conflict, even by way of moral support, for the democratic mandate of the Spanish Republic, including the recently established Basque autonomous government. Utilising several previously unexploited Basque primary sources, this article traces and highlights Basque nationalist hopes and expectations around possible Irish government interventions, and how Basque nationalists ultimately felt let down by their ostensible Irish allies. Despite this disappointment, the prevailing pre-civil war perception among Basque nationalists of Ireland as a beacon of national liberation and a spiritual ally of sorts to the Basques was to endure. In exploring Basque-Irish contacts and relations around the Spanish Civil War, the article touches on several interrelated themes, such as misunderstood solidarity, the fate of small stateless nations, the realpolitik of international relations, and historical memory.
Footnotes
1
“El mal irlandés”, Euzkadi, 28.08.1936. [Spanish to English translations by author].
 
2
For Irish involvement in the Spanish Civil War and the political dynamics of the conflict in Ireland, see Fearghal McGarry: Irish Politics and the Spanish Civil War, Cork, Cork University Press, 1999; Barry McLoughlin, Emmet O’Connor: In Spanish Trenches. The Minds and Deeds of the Irish who Fought for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, Dublin, UCD Press, 2020; Robert Stradling: The Irish and the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939: Crusades in Conflict, Manchester, Mandolin, 1999.
 
3
“El Separatista Irreductible”, Euzkadi, 21.02.1933.
 
4
Niall Cullen: Gora Rebeldiak! A History of Radical Basque Nationalist–Irish Republican Relations [forthcoming].
 
5
Ludger Mees: The Basque Contention. Ethnicity, Politics, Violence, London & New York, Routledge, 2020, pp. 76–8.
 
6
Ronan Fanning: Éamon De Valera. A Will to Power, London, Faber & Faber, 2015, p. 183.
 
7
On Labour and the unions, see McGarry: Irish Politics and the Spanish Civil War, pp. 182–90; McLoughlin; O’Connor: In Spanish Trenches, pp. 13–6.
 
8
For O’Duffy’s call to arms, see “Irish Brigade for Spain”, Irish Independent, 10.08.1936. In his account of the war, O’Duffy accused the Basques of allying “with the avowed destroyers of their religion”. He also dismissed Basque nationalists’ claims for independence as “equally absurd” as the notion of six of Ulster’s nine counties seceding from Ireland. Notwithstanding this hostility, O’Duffy’s formal agreement with Franco regarding the deployment of his forces asserted that they avoid the Basque theatre of war “for reasons of religion and traditional ties between the Basques and the Irish”. See Eoin O’Duffy: Crusade in Spain, Clonskeagh, Browne and Nolan, 1938, pp. 195–8. For a detailed account of the 1932 Basque delegation visit, see Kyle McCreanor: Ireland and the Basque Country: Nationalisms in Contact, 1895–1939, Concordia University (MA Thesis), 2019, pp. 55–60.
 
9
For Gilmore’s Basque mission, see Seán Cronin: Frank Ryan. The Search for The Republic, Dublin, Repsol Publishing, 1980, p. 81. For the beginning of the war in the Basque Country and Aguirre’s inauguration, see Mees: The Basque Contention, pp. 77–8.
 
10
“Letter from Daniel de Mendialdua to José Antonio Aguirre”. Dated 31 October 1936. Paris. Correspondencia mantenida entre los años 1936 y 1937 por el Gobierno de Euzkadi con responsables de la Delegación de París. Secretaría General (Bilbao, Barcelona, París). Secretaría. Legajo: 26. Número legajo: 01. Archivo Histórico de Euskadi (AHE).
 
11
McGarry: Irish Politics and the Spanish Civil War, p. 7; “Republicans criticise Dublin daily newspaper”, Irish Press, 06.11.1936; “The War in Spain”, Irish Press, 04.12.1936.
 
12
“Republicans criticise Dublin daily newspaper”, Irish Press, 06.11.1936. “Azuria-guerra” refers to Juan de Ajuriaguerra, a member of the PNV’s executive in Biscay (Bizkai Buru Batzar). For details on Ambrose Martin and his Basque connections, see Cullen: Gora Rebeldiak! [forthcoming]; McCreanor: Ireland and the Basque Country: Nationalisms in Contact, 1895–1939.
 
13
Cullen: Gora Rebeldiak! [forthcoming].
 
14
“Basque Government’s Statement”, The Liberator (Kerry), 26.01.1937.
 
15
“Telegram sent by Lezo de Urreiztieta”. Dated 10 January 1937. Paris. Personal correspondence with Santiago de Pablo (text of letter). On Lezo de Urreiztieta, see Eugenio Ibarzabal: “Lezo de Urreiztieta, un aberriano”, Muga, no. 4, March 1980.
 
16
McGarry: Irish Politics and the Spanish Civil War, p. 100.
 
17
“Los exiliados y otros problemas”, available at http://​www.​euskalmemoriadig​itala.​eus/​bitstream/​10357/​25682/​1/​206822.​pdf (last accessed 28 February 2021).
 
18
McCreanor: Ireland and the Basque Country, p. 80.
 
19
“Letter from Leopold Kerney to Department of External Affairs”. Dated 23 March 1937. DFA 3/119/17A. General and Confidential Reports from St. Jean de Luz. NAI.
 
20
Mervyn O’Driscoll, Dermot Keogh: “Ireland’s military engagement in Spain and Hispano-Irish military cooperation in the twentieth and twenty first centuries” in Hugh O’Donnell (coord.): Presencia irlandesa en la milicia Española. The Irish Presence in the Spanish Military – 16th to 20th Centuries. International Review Of Military History, no. 92, Madrid, 2014, pp. 135–194 (quotes on p. 164, p. 176).
 
21
“The reception of Basque refugees in 1937 showed Britain at its best and worst”, The Guardian, 22.05.2017; “Escaping the horror of Guernica — An Irishman’s Diary on Basque Child Refugees in 1937”, Irish Times, 25.04.2017.
 
22
“Letter from Kathleen O’Connell to J.P. Walshe”. Dated 13 May 1937. DFA 3/119/17A. General and Confidential Reports from St. Jean de Luz. NAI.
 
23
“Basque Point of View”, Irish Times, 15.06.1937.
 
24
McGarry: Irish Politics and the Spanish Civil War, p. 223.
 
25
“Letter from Michael Lennon to Chomin Epalza”. Dated 29 August 1938. London; “Untitled précis containing the sub-headings ‘Irlanda’ and ‘Inglaterra’”. Underline for stress in original. Archivo Histórico del Gobierno Vasco. Fondo del Departamento de Presidencia. Secretaría General (Bilbao, Barcelona, París). Secretaría. Legajo: 52 Número legajo: 03. AHE.
 
26
“Letter from José María Izaurieta to Pedro de Basaldú”. Dated 13 September 1938. Paris; “Letter from José María Izaurieta to Pedro de Basaldú”. Dated 15 September 1938. Geneva; “Letter from Franisco Javier de Landaburu to Pedro de Basaldú”. Dated 17 September 1938. Geneva. 45/20/1. Personal correspondence with Santiago de Pablo (text of letters).
 
27
“Extract from a speech given by Eamon de Valera at the Eighteenth Ordinary Session of the League of Nations”. No. 93 P150/2807. UCDA. https://​www.​difp.​ie/​docs/​1937/​Address-to-the-18th-Assembly-League-of-Nations/​2239.​htm (last accessed 24 February 2021).
 
28
Jean-Claude Larronde: Luis Arana Goiri 1862–1951. Historia del Nacionalismo Vasco, Bilbao, Archivo del Nacionalismo Vasco (ANV), 2010, pp. 437–41. For details of Luis Arana’s “headless” plan, see José Luis de la Granja Sainz: El Nacionalismo Vasco: Un Siglo de Historia, Madrid, Tecnos, 1995 pp. 122–3.
 
29
Teresa Whitfield: Endgame for ETA. Elusive Peace in the Basque Country, London, Hurst & Company, 2014, p. 39
 
30
For the relevant reports, see Barry Whelan: Ireland and Spain, 1939–55: Cultural, Economic and Political Relations from Neutrality in the Second World War to Joint Membership of the United NationsNational University of Ireland, Maynooth, (PhD Dissertation), 2012, pp. 104–6, pp. 109–10, pp. 117–8, pp. 200–8.
 
31
Cullen: Gora Rebeldiak! [forthcoming].
 
32
Fanning: Éamon De Valera, p. 184.
 
33
See Whelan: Ireland and Spain, 1939–55, p. 39, pp. 118–9.
 
34
Cullen: Gora Rebeldiak! [forthcoming].
 
35
See “Análisis y critica del trabajo titulado ‘Notas sobre el problema nacional’”, Zutik!, no. 57; “El baserri desaparece”, Punto y Hora de Euskal Herria, 30.11–06.12.1978. Personal correspondence with Paddy Woodworth.
 
36
Cullen: Gora Rebeldiak! [forthcoming]; Kyle McCreanor: “Ireland, the Basques, and the Spanish Civil War”, Irish Historical Studies 46, no. 169 [May 2022, forthcoming].
 
Metadata
Title
‘Oh Ireland! What a Disappointment You Have Been to the Basque People’: Irish Non-Intervention in the Spanish Civil War
Author
Niall Cullen
Publication date
20-05-2021
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Society / Issue 2/2021
Print ISSN: 0147-2011
Electronic ISSN: 1936-4725
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-021-00576-w

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