The History Show

The History Show

Sunday, 6pm

The History Show Sunday 13 January 2013

The History Show

The History Show

Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past

Ireland after World War II

Ireland after World War II

"By God’s providence and with the unremitting zeal and loyalty of all concerned, we were able to come through the trial successfully’

Taoiseach, Eamon De Valera speaking there in September 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War. Ireland was in a very depressed state. We were struggling with high inflation, falling living standards and rationing - despite the country’s wartime neutrality.

So what was life like for people here after World War II? How reluctant were we to take in refugees? And how did we treat the Irish who returned after fighting for the Allied forces.

Historian, Michael Kennedy from the Royal Irish Academy and Bernard Kelly, author of Returning Home talked about life in Ireland after World War II as well as our attitude to refugees and returning war veterans.

Bernard Kelly’s book Returning Home – Irish Ex-Servicemen after the Second World War is published by Merrion.

Quotes from government and official sources in 1945:

Official Ireland did not have a distinguished record when it came to taking in Jewish refugees during the war. This Department of Justice memo, written in November 1945, shows that this situation wasn’t about to change after the surrender of Germany.

‘The immigration of Jews is generally discouraged. The wealth and influence on the Jewish community in this country appear to have increased considerably in recent years and there is some danger of exciting opposition and controversy if this tendency continues. As Jews do not become assimilated with the native population, like other immigrants, any big increase in their numbers might create a social problem.’

Our reluctance to take in refugees didn’t stop with the Jews. The net was cast a lot wider. This quote is from Sean Lemass on 12 December 1945:

‘The Minister for Industry and Commerce is opposed to the proposal to admit any alien refugees to this country unless, in particular cases, such persons have some special technical qualifications or business connections of use to the country. In the Minister’s opinion, it would be most undesirable to open the door even to the limited number of refugees suggested, so long as large numbers of Irish citizens remain unemployed. He would point out that at present there are approximately 62,000 men and 8,000 women registered as unemployed, and that these numbers are likely to increase with the return from Great Britain and Northern Ireland of workers who had found temporary employment there during the war years.’

In December 1945, this is how Eamon De Valera’s remarks about our refugee policy were reported:

‘The Taoiseach explained the attitude of the Government as being that our policy towards this problem should be liberal and generous, due regard being had to our own interests in regard to certain matters, such as employment, foreign relations and the necessity for excluding undesirable persons. Subject to the necessary safeguards in these respects we should be as helpful as possible and we should try positively to give asylum to aliens seeking refuge in existing circumstances.’

Operation Shamrock

We did however offer refuge to more than a thousand children from war-torn Germany when the Irish Red Cross set up ‘Operation Shamrock’. Some had lost their parents in the war while others’ homes had been destroyed. Some children were fostered and later returned to Germany while others stayed and were adopted by new Irish parents. Rhona Tarrant caught up with three refugees from post-war Germany – more than 65 on.

Hermann Goertz

One uninvited guest who arrived on these shores in the 1940s was Nazi spy, Hermann Goertz who spent a spell in prison here during World War II. He was released in 1946 and became secretary of the “Save the German Children” fund. But he came to a sticky end the following year when he poisoned himself after being told of his imminent deportation back to Germany. Historian, Sam McGrath recorded this piece for us about the day there were Swastikas and Nazi Salutes in Deansgrange Cemetery

Sam McGrath, Donal Fallon and Ciaran Murray’s Book Come Here To Me – Dublin’s Other History is published by New Island


The History of Moore Street

The History of Moore Street

Dublin’s Moore Street has given rise to some of the city’s most vibrant characters and it is here where the leaders of the 1916 Rising made their last stand.

The story of Moore Street is told in Barry Kennerk’s latest book – and he took Orla Rapple on a historic walking tour of this famous street where she met some of its traders who go back generations.

Moore Street – The Story of Dublin’s Market District by Barry Kennerk is published by Mercier Press





The Otherworld

The Otherworld

Going back to ancient times, belief in the wailing of the Banshee as an omen of death has existed in many parts of the country.

Oral accounts of the supernatural and fairies from the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin sit alongside photos and lyrics in The Otherworld which has just been published. Two CDs featuring stories, songs and tunes accompany the book.

Tom Sherlock who co-edited the book talked about people’s age old belief in banshees and folklore.

The Otherworld: Music and Song from Irish Tradition Edited by Rionach ui Ogain and Tom Sherlock is published by Four Courts Press.

About The Show

Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past.

We want to help explain ourselves to ourselves. We will search out fresh angles on familiar topics, seek out the unfamiliar and will not shy away from bizarre or controversial issues. Our ultimate goal is to make The History Show the primary port of call for those with an intense or even a modest interest in the subject. We want to entice the casual and the curious to join us in celebrating the past.

Our aim is to create informative, reflective, stimulating and above all, entertaining radio.

Join us on Sundays from 6.05pm for The History Show with Myles Dungan on RTÉ Radio 1.

A Pegasus production for RTÉ. 



Contact the Show

Presenter: Myles Dungan

Producer: Lorcan Clancy

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