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German Attack on Neutral States

"German Attack on Neutral States"

12 May 1940

Eamon de Valera

By 12 May 1940 German forces were sweeping across continental Europe and there were growing fears that Germany might mount an invasion of Britain and perhaps Ireland. In this speech Eamon de Valera emphasized that Ireland would resist an attack "from any quarter"; he also spoke about his efforts to bring about good relations with Britain—an important message at a time when a German victory appeared inevitable.

SEE ALSO de Valera, Eamon; Neutrality; Politics: Independent Ireland since 1922

We have been in danger from the moment this war began, and we will be in danger until it is over. Our duty is that every one of us in his own way should try to save himself and his neighbour, and the whole community, as best as he can from its consequences.

I was at Geneva on many occasions. When I was there, I used to particularly seek out the representatives of small nations because their problems, I thought, were in many respects like our problems. Just as I was coming in here I was going over in my mind the number of small independent nations that were represented there and the number of them that have, for the moment at any rate, disappeared. Go over in your own minds the list of small nations, and ask yourselves how many of them are now with their old independence or free from the horrors of war.

The representatives of Belgium and the representatives of The Netherlands were people that I met frequently, because we co-operated not a little with the northern group of nations. Today these two small nations are fighting for their lives, and I think I would be unworthy of this small nation if, on an occasion like this, I did not utter our protest against the cruel wrong which has been done them.

We have to see to it that, if there should be any attack of any kind upon us from any quarter, they will find us a united people ready to resist it. There is alive, thanks be to God, in this country a generation that has passed through war and that has done its part to secure the freedom that we have at the moment. I know that that generation, if it were called upon, is prepared to defend that freedom, and I know the younger people who are coming along will be not less ready to defend it if they are called upon. . . .

I have preached the national policy for many years. It is a policy which was commonly accepted—that we wanted our independence because it was our right. We proclaimed to the world that we did not want that independence to use it in any way hurtful to any other country, and particularly we did not desire it to be hurtful to Britain. We were prepared to let bygones by bygones as far as Britain was concerned, once we had our independence.

In so far as the portion of the country where we have that independence is concerned, we have pursued that policy and, as a result, as far as it was possible, established good relations between the two countries. My one regret in a time like the present is that there is still a cause of difference between the two countries. I believe, trying to look into the future, that the destiny of the peoples of these two islands off the coast of Europe will be similar in many respects. I believe that we will have many interests in common in the future as in the past. I believe these common interests would beget good relations. During the whole time I have been in public life I have sought to lay the foundation for these good relations by removing the causes of differences. Down here we have removed these causes of differences one by one, and as each one was removed, better relations ensued.

I strove to get that other cause removed, and I hoped all the time that it would be appreciated that it was necessary, in the interests of both these islands, for that cause to be removed. I will strive, and it will be the national policy to strive, in the future as in the past to secure the ending of these causes of difference between us.

Speeches and Statements by Eamon de Valera, 1917–73, edited by Maurice Moynihan (1980), pp. 434–436.

Reproduced by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC, and Gill & Macmillan, Dublin.

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