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Statements in the media… good, bad and indifferent… June 7, 2020

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

Let’s start with something that has nothing to do with the pandemic. This from Stephen Collins in the IT.

In her recent long interview in the Sunday Independent Mary Lou McDonald gave some hostages to fortune with her unapologetic support for the IRA terror campaign and her defence of Nazi collaborator Frank Ryan.
Imagine what the “Shinnerbots” would do with that if the boot was on the other foot. Luckily for them there is no evidence that their political opponents are up to the job.

Frank Ryan? I think he means Sean Russell. Nice though of Finfacts in comments BTL on the piece Collins writes to link to this on the CLR from Brian Hanley all the way back in 2009.

EH is behind a paywall, but one gets the idea from this. Amazing how it is all about the economy and nothing about actual health issues relating to the pandemic… though it seems a bit much for someone who ‘works’ by getting paid for writing columns at home to be demanding everyone else go back into workplaces that may or may not be safe to work in…

Ivan Yates and The Tonight Show can claim some of the credit for Leo Varadkar’s decision to speed up our return to the world of work before the country goes bankrupt.

From early in the lock-down, Yates ran real risks in robustly challenging its wisdom, continually reminding us of the economic carnage.

In spite of constant back pain, he has found a boyish glee in challenging the Continue Cocooners whom he clearly wants to tip out of their hammocks.

Not for the first time Fintan O’Toole ascribes curious attributes to the virus…

A viral Taliban has taken over the country. Covid-19, like many mass killers, is a fanatical puritan – no dancing, no music, no unholy images, no festivals. It has devastated cultural life.


Then this:


Prof John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a leading Sage member, explained to the Guardian his basis for advising that “mass gatherings” had little impact on the spread of a virus. “Very few people actually go to these events” as a proportion of the population. The events are outside, and “you don’t actually come into contact with that many people. So the total number of contacts made in these situations compared with every day in a pub for instance, is really negligible.”

Obviously not been to an open air festival or gig so.

Mark Paul in the IT appears to not quite grasp what a risk to health is or why it would make people anxious and careful…thinking that it is the equivalent to 9/11…except when he doesn’t…

The global coronavirus pandemic is incomparable to 9/11. But there is one similarity in terms of the existential threat that has arisen for many small businesses, especially those in retail and hospitality. Frightened people may stay away, rattling SMEs even further.
The State has been stretched to breaking point by the breadth of the crisis and now it is threatened by a new virus: the Government appears riven with cabin fever from spending too long listening to the advice of medics and scientists alone. Ministers have virtually abandoned small businesses by inexplicably risking many of their futures with the most plodding economic reopening anywhere in the western world. Is is like asking Irish SMEs to return to their feet with pianos on their backs. It is daft.
As we enter phase two of the easing of restrictions and many shops reopen next week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is unlikely to pull a ‘Dubya’ moment and tell us all to go shopping. But this is precisely what those of us who can afford to should do.


Pat Dawson [of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA)] is convinced airlines will start flying sooner rather than later. “The fact is Ryanair and Aer Lingus are certainly going to fly next month even though nobody will have the appetite to get on those planes. And if they don’t get on the planes then they will be treated as a no-show and their money is going to be gone. If the Government is allowing planes to fly then they should pay the money to the people who are going to lose out.
“There is no joined-up thinking. How can one element of Government say don’t travel while another accommodates airlines? We want airlines to be flying but we also want people to be safe and to be protected.”

Surely it is the airlines that are taking the decision to fly services, not the Government?

And a piece of good sense from that article:

If the travel industry in its many forms has any sense, it will bend over backwards to look after these people with vouchers and 2021 rebookings rather than seeking to make short-term gains at the expense of long-term relationships.


1. Pasionario - June 8, 2020

Regarding Frank Ryan, how would you describe a man who spent four years as a guest of the Fuhrer and was onboard a German U-Boat alongside Sean Russell when the latter died?


WorldbyStorm - June 8, 2020

I think given he was taken involuntarily from a Spanish ‘Nationalist’ jail -where he was under sentence of 30 years hard labour – by the Abwehr his status in Berlin was closer to a form of house arrest or coercion in order to have him work for them. Not sure that his subsequent actions can be characterised as ‘collaboration’ (for example did he seek and assist in undermining Eire in any way?). Btw I’m no fan of Russell who I think did de facto move to a much more problematic position and whose statue I can quite literally see every day. I think this following isn’t bad, though it seems to me to overstate his role in Berlin when in fact it seems he just wanted to get back to Ireland in a way where he would be safe (and I suspect where he would be
safe from prosecution).



Pasionario - June 9, 2020

By participating in a plan to bring German assistance to the IRA, Ryan undoubtedly falls under any normal definition of “collaborator”, namely to quote Riordan “one who cooperates traitorously with an enemy of one’s own country”.

Maybe Germany wasn’t technically Ireland’s “enemy”, but the Nazis and IRA were engaged in efforts, however haphazard, to subvert the Irish State and its policy of neutrality. Those actions were treasonous under the 1939 Treason Act.

Ryan was a complex figure and certainly no fascist. But he did collaborate with the Nazis, even if under duress. It’s bizarre to try to insist otherwise.

As for the Russell statue, if any local “antifas” feel like having another go, now’s the time!


WorldbyStorm - June 9, 2020

If Ireland wasn’t technically at war with Germany, and it most certainly wasn’t, then the idea it was an ‘enemy’ as such falls immediately (there’s a moral case that it was an enemy and that’s the one that gets me about Russell). And by the same token every single member of the IRA from its inception, and in all strands, would have been treasonous given they sought the replacement of the state as was with a new state (as would CP members etc). I mean if one is applying the Treason Act as the final word on the matter and I think that’s problematic too then that encompasses all those formations. It’s an argument but I’m not sure how robust it really is (particularly given a broader discussion about the foundation of the state, that in 1939 was less than twenty years).

I also don’t think that collaborating under duress is collaborating. I think it’s the very definition of coercion. And even that duress was multi-scaled. The Abwehr appear to have shielded him from the Gestapo so even in that respect the situation is so difficult – given his effective POW status at the start and out on license status subsequently that it is a stretch to see him as being traitorous. Furthermore what possible or plausible alternative did he have but to string them along, albeit in the least useful and foot dragging way possible as he clearly did? He was dragged into meetings of those who sought to undermine Éire neutrality but again what choice did he have? And what of substance did he do or say? My read is nothing and nothing. Like yourself I loath the Nazi’s and have no time for Russell but Ryan just doesn’t seem realistically to fit the bill of a collaborator. He didn’t choose to go to Berlin, was kept under effective constraint and containment while in Berlin, didn’t appear to do anything of any substance. Was no power. Was in contact with Éire reps professing his neutrality and unwillingness to do anything against Éire interests on behalf of his ‘hosts’.

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Pasionario - June 9, 2020

Many collaborators — notably Petain in France — argued they were acting under duress. It doesn’t change the fact of their collaboration.

Ryan worked with the Nazi authorities to launch an illegal campaign of subversion within Ireland in cahoots with the IRA, which was pledged to overthrow the State. If Russell and Francis Stuart were collaborators, then so was Ryan, whatever his misgivings and whatever he thought he was doing. There’s no other word for it.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - June 9, 2020

Perhaps it should be remembered that that at the time of Ryan and Russell’s abortive Uboat trip (1940) Soviet Russia and its associated Communist Parties were also in cahoots with Nazi Germany.

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WorldbyStorm - June 9, 2020

I don’t think it’s possible to compare Petain, an ideological reactionary whose protestations of working under duress were fashioned for public consumption and who oversaw, even if in part as a figurehead, a proxy state for Nazi Germany in France that had outright fascists brought into state power and which oversaw vicious anti-semitic laws and repression against all its perceived enemies with a man who was brought against his will from a Spanish jail to Berlin at the behest not of himself but a German intelligence agency which sought to coerce him to assist them, something that accounts at the time and subsequently exonerate from doing. I think that comparison is simply not historically or on any level one that holds up.

Again I’d think someone who was in a foreign and ideologically hostile capital city and was coerced, or felt that they were coerced, mitigates even the remarkably minimal acts that he appears to have undertaken. Collaboration to me infers that the person undertaking does it enthusiastically, from conviction, and to their full extent.

I see that the French distinctions between ideological and convinced collaborators and others who held pragmatic reasons (such as police or civil service or opportunism), that is collaborateur and collbarationniste, do not cover Ryan.


Pasionario - June 10, 2020

I think we need to get away from the idea that all collaborators were uniquely evil and reactionary.

Ryan is a tragic figure, who didn’t have any good options. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a collaborator. The many Soviet POWs who were faced with a choice between probable starvation or joining the Wehrmacht were in a similarly grim position. And they too were collaborators.

It’s also a post-war fiction that it was only the Right that collaborated. In France, many socialists actively supported and served the Vichy regime, which was responsible for expanding the welfare state and introducing a lot of economic planning. And the French communists flirted with collaboration until the invasion of the Soviet Union.

Ryan clearly had mixed feelings about what he was up to (many collaborators did). But, given both the Nazi-Soviet Pact and the IRA’s policy, his record of collaboration in 1940-41 makes quite a lot of sense. And the fact that he was on the left, whereas Russell and Stuart weren’t, doesn’t require a different label.


WorldbyStorm - June 10, 2020

“I think we need to get away from the idea that all collaborators were uniquely evil and reactionary.

Ryan is a tragic figure, who didn’t have any good options. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a collaborator. The many Soviet POWs who were faced with a choice between probable starvation or joining the Wehrmacht were in a similarly grim position. And they too were collaborators.”

I think explicitly placing Ryan on the same level as a Petain only a comment back is one that links him in with evil and reaction. The term collaborator has very specific meanings – the manner in which it is used by Stephen Collins doesn’t allow for any nuance, or any uncertainty. It suggests that Ryan engaged with and assisted and supported Nazi war aims. Yet that is palpably incorrect. None of the connotations are positive, all of them indicate negative connotations. But again taking the French definitions they indicate those who voluntarily or through process work with an enemy. Coercion is a different matter. And taking your Soviet POW example (which it is important to keep in mind is one that incorporates combatants on opposing sides of a conflict between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, again distinctly different) one would feel differently about someone who was coerced to join and then absconded as against someone who remained within a fighting division. Someone who was brought as a captive to Berlin and went to some meetings doesn’t quite fit that bill though do they?

Some on the left did flirt and more with Nazism and fascism in all its variants. I certainly wouldn’t disagree. One could say though that programmatically those who were SDs and indeed KP/PCF/PCI (albeit with the obvious contradictions given Soviet/Nazi relations until those ruptured) did resist and paid for that resistance with their lives.

“Ryan clearly had mixed feelings about what he was up to (many collaborators did).”

I think that is deeply unfair to someone who was under effective house arrest and with the status of a captive in Berlin despite not being a combatant in a conflict between Germany and ÉIre which crucially did not exist.

I’ll note one other thing. Ryan’s anniversary has been noted on this site in posts for years. He has been quoted approvingly of by WP and CPI statements during that same time reprinted on this site. There’s been numerous references and mentions to him in Spanish Civil War commemorations publicised here, some specifically focused on him. In that time there has not been one comment by anyone, including yourself, suggesting that he was a collaborator or that these mentions or posts were effectively commemorating a de facto supporter of Nazism (in word or deed).


Pasionario - June 10, 2020

Ryan most certainly did “engage with and assist with Nazi war aims.”

He was an agent of the Abwehr who joined a mission with Russell aboard a German U-Boat. Crucially, when Russell died, Ryan chose to return to Germany rather than land in Ireland. No-one has ever disputed that that was his choice, and it is incompatible with any interpretation of Ryan as simply a captive of the Nazis.

His Abwehr handler Kurt Haller even said during an interrogation with British intelligence after the war that “Ryan more easily accepted his position as a German agent” than Russell. By all accounts, he was well treated in Germany, receiving extra rations.

Ryan later participated in efforts to recruit Irish POWs to join an Irish Brigade that would fight with the Germans.

The only special pleading that can be entered on his behalf is that such actions may not have been technically treasonous since Ireland was not at war with Germany. But the aim was clearly to subvert the Irish policy of neutrality by using the IRA as a Nazi Fifth Column.

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sonofstan - June 10, 2020

I’m a bit shocked at people defending Ryan on this. Not to diminish his record in Spain or anything, but the evidence points to him having worked for the Nazis and therefore, like it or not, a collaborator- the relevance of the existence or timing of the Hitler Stalin pact is immaterial.


WorldbyStorm - June 10, 2020

I don’t know SonofStan. I think it’s a complex history but the outlines are clear enough (though I agree the Nazi-Soviet pact is irrelevant as is his track record in Spain) and they don’t point to collaboration as I understand the term.

He wasn’t a free agent. He didn’t go to Berlin under his own steam and he clearly didn’t embrace that status once there. He was living under the protection of one intelligence agency and at threat from other state organs.

It is implausible that he could have attempted to cross Germany and then France and then make it to the coast there and hop a boat. The only way he could return to Ireland was at the gift of the Germans (and the path back to Spain was obviously closed). They weren’t going to release him again for obvious reasons other than if he went in on their behalf (as with the U-Boat, but there the record is very unclear that he acquiesced to anything other than as a means of getting home). So for those who argue he was a collaborator what alternative path could he have taken other than minimal acquiescence to participation with his captors?

Take the U-Boat experience. Pasionario argues that Ryan said go back to Germany. Two thoughts. Firstly Ryan had a complete physical collapse at this point and for many months afterwards. Secondly, Ryan clearly was therefore in no fit condition to land in Ireland on his own with no contacts whatsoever. Actually a third thought. That supposed instruction of his to return to Germany is contested too.

Re ‘recruiting’ Irish POWs. Ryan complained bitterly about being used against his will in that escapade, that he’d gone as a person with experience of prisoners to meet other prisoners, and refused to engage in any similar activities again.

Thirdly as Manus O’Riordain has noted Ryan argued and apparently successfully for a veto by de Valera on ‘proposed arms assistance in an Anglo-Irish conflict’, hardly the actions of a man who was either (as O’Riordain notes) in cahoots with Russell who sought no such veto, or sought to undermine the Irish state.

There’s a narrative about this which always winds up as Ryan as a collaborator. Pick at the actual history and that becomes a lot more complex due to the basic structural reasons Ryan found himself in Berlin.


EWI - June 10, 2020

but the Nazis and IRA were engaged in efforts, however haphazard, to subvert the Irish State and its policy of neutrality. Those actions were treasonous under the 1939 Treason Act.

I very much doubt it. There was no prosecution of the Irish Times (whose editor had probably been a cat’s paw for British interests in the late Twenties, twice becoming physically involved in scuppering imminent parliamentary threats to the continuance of the CnaG government).

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor - June 10, 2020

I have never heard that it was Ryan who insisted on returning to Germany rather than Ireland. I understood that the Nazis had every reason to fear that he would be too much of a loose cannon for them without Russell to bring the IRA to keep him in check.

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WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2020

Yes, DROC, I’ve been reading some of the history and this idea that Ryan insisted on being returned appears to be a recent addition to the body of work about him. Original accounts suggested that he was returned at the behest of Berlin. And realistically who on a Nazi U-Boat would have had authority in this situation? I find it hard to believe it was Ryan.


WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2020

BTW, I don’t see Ryan as tragic. I have enormous sympathy for him though. What a terrible situation to be in.A convinced anti-fascist, who had fought against fascism, imprisoned and then brought against his will as a deal he had no part in to Berlin and as it were set amongst his enemies. He had no autonomy, was pushed around by one set of intelligence agencies and under perpetual threat from another. No chance of escape short of a miracle, and stuck in with a milieu of chancers like Stuart etc. What on earth does someone do in that context?

The idea that he would reach out to a resistance that had been battered into submission in the early 1930s is for the birds. To take a stand on a personal level is an ask beyond certainly myself and I think most others.

So he appears from the written record to have been obdurate and unresponsive with his captors literally doing the bare minimum to survive (and given he wasn’t a combatant that seems reasonable). And he’s branded a collaborator. I genuinely hope none of us find ourselves in the same position as he involuntarily was. I hope that if we do people are a tad more sympathetic to him on a human and political level. And finally I hope that charges of collaboration are put to one side.


Pasionario - June 11, 2020

Fearghal McGarry is emphatic about Ryan wanting to return to Germany to pursue a collaborationist agenda:

“Following Russell’s sudden death (the result of a perforated ulcer) as their U-boat neared the Irish coast, Ryan—who had no knowledge of the details of Russell’s mission—chose to return to Germany in order to preserve the link between republicanism and Germany, a decision he would come to regret.”


It’s not clear what the source is from the article. But it’s clearly a crucial point in all this. If anyone has a copy of McGarry’s bio of Ryan to hand, perhaps they’d enlighten us.

I have another book in front of me called Hitler’s Irishmen by Terence O’Reilly, which says the same thing. His source seems to be Ryan’s Abwehr handler Kurt Haller’s post-war interrogation by MI5, but it’s not totally clear.


WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2020

Problem is others who have also studied his life are certain that McGharry’s interpretation is incorrect and not based on the actual record (for example some of what is being stated about Ryan’s intentions come from Stuart who as O’Riordain has noted was ideologically at odds with Ryan and some of whose other statements about Ryan also are contradictory or plain wrong given other sources). O’Reillys book which I also have has also been criticised for being vague on this which given its centrality to the charge being made is simply not robust enough to sustain it.


WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2020

By the way, it’s worth keeping in mind the point Barry McLoughlin in Fighting for Republican Spain 1936-38 makes about Ryan and that trip which is that he was ‘far from healthy and still disoriented from his unexpected release from… Burgos’. He left Spain in late July and was on the submarine in early August. He learned of the submarine the day after his arrival in Berlin when he met Russell. All accounts argue that he was effectively added in to the trip home and had no part in planning or the execution of the mission. Given the strain he was under even had he directed the submarine to return to German that would have been explicable by his mental condition, ill-health, lack of contacts, and so on. But again the point is contested in various accounts and I’m dubious someone who was effectively and in most accounts along as a passenger would have had the authority to a) force a return to Berlin and b) all this return predicated on some over-arching future role as a liaison between Germany and the IRA which he clearly was in on fit state to do and would have no contacts available to do so (this last interpretation is from McGharry who writes on QUB that ‘ Russell, however, died on a German submarine off the Irish coast, and Ryan – despite his anti-fascist record – agreed to return to Berlin to replace Russell as a liaison between Irish republicans and Nazi Germany’). I wonder is that last plausible given he had no capital with Berlin since he’d only been there a few weeks and no track record either of the sort that Russell did or contact with the actual IRA of the time.

Actually there’s a more likely reason which fits with his health and mental condition argued in Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid’s book on Seán MacBride which suggests ‘the mission was abandoned following the death of Russell on board; the submarine was merely a hundred miles off the coast of Galway, but Ryan, who apparently had no idea of the details of Russell’s mission instructed the submarine captain to return to Germany…’ presumably due to not knowing where a landing was to take place or how it was all to be organised etc. Again, difficult to blame a man in poor health and disorientated by both his circumstances and the death of Russell not feeling able to take the chance of a landing on his own on a coast.

And one other thought, McLoughlin notes that Ryan’s ‘release’ from Spanish detention into that of the Germany security services was secured by Spain and Germany and the Éire representative in Spain, Leopold Kerney (who had problems of his own with the Franco regime having been originally the representative to Republican Spain). I find the idea that Ryan operated as an effectively licensed agent of Éire influence a stretch but… it’s not a huge stretch. given Ryan continued to be in contact with Kerney subsequently.


2. roddy - June 10, 2020

Thing is if Ryan is to be condemned ,a long list of groups and public figures will have to line up to take their share of flak.This includes political groups – SF,WP, IRSP,CPI,Labour, media figures including RTE’s Joe Mulholland, entertainers Christy Moore and Ronnie Drew among others and various trade unionists.Which goes to prove Irish history and politics North and South will never be a neat fit for the world as we see it today.

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3. roddy - June 10, 2020

When Ryan’s body was repatriated in 1979,the East German government held a ceremony for him with military honours and hailed him as “a great anti Fascist”!

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4. Manus - June 10, 2020


(11 September 1902 – 10 June 1944)

See also http://irelandscw.com/org-RyanComm.htm and http://irelandscw.com/docs-Ryan2.htm for Frank Ryan commemorated and vindicated.

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