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Who is credited with the following cheery insight into the Irish character?

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Home - Ireland - Ireland FAQs and Trivia - Who is credited with the following cheery insight into the Irish character?

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Who is credited with the following cheery insight into the Irish character? PDF Print E-mail
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Ireland - Ireland FAQs and Trivia
Written by Hugh McManus   

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Thursday, 14 January 2010 03:35

At question is the expression below.  Can you guess who is credited with saying the following?

The Irish are a mixture of western and Nordic components.  Characteristics are a lively temperament, good nature, cheerfulness, a talent for music and dancing, education, and social entertainment.  The Irishman supports a community based on equality for all but has an extraordinary personal need for independence, which easily leads to indiscipline and belligerence and makes large political organizations difficult.  Unreliability and instability are also imputed to him.  A profound piety characterizes these people, who have defended their Catholic beliefs with fanaticism, and the authority of the priest—sprung from the ordinary people—is enormous.

Don't know?

Well, neither do I, but I know where it was published.  I'll give you a clue: Sieg Heil!  Yep, it was taken from a tome called Militärgeographische Angaben über Irland, which was essentially a large, 78-page manual or primer for the three German divisions–the 61st, 72nd and 209th–slated to invade Ireland in 1940.  The entire operation would have involved 50,000 German troops, which would have swamped the grossly under armed and ill-prepared Irish defense forces.  The invasion was scheduled to take place sometime in mid September, probably coinciding with or preceding the invasion of England.  Spoiler Alert: the Germans never did invade Ireland.

The invasion, code-named Fall Grün or Operation Green, would start with the landing of close to 4,000 German soldiers on beaches from Dungarvan to Wexford.  The Germans expected light resistance, which would allow the initial landing parties to establish a secure zone up to thirty miles inland.  The front would have run from Gorey in County Wexford to Borris in County Carlow, then Thomastown in Kilkenny, Clonmel in County Tipperary ending in Dungarvan.  While it seems appropriate that the Germans should codename their uninvited visit to the Emerald Isle "Green," no distinction should be attached to this designation.  All major German military operations were, initially, codenamed with a color.  The colors were recycled: Operation Green was also the code name for the planned invasion of Czechoslovakia in September, 1938.

Unlike Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sea Lion), which was the invasion of England, the Gestapo did not have a "round up and kill" list for Ireland.  While the Germans didn't expect to be welcomed with open arms in Ireland, it doesn't appear that they expected major resistance.

The British too had a plan to occupy Ireland and had discussed the issue with Taoiseach de Valera.  After neutral countries were invaded in continental Europe, de Valera was open to accepting British troops in Ireland if and when the Germans invaded.

The Germans also had extraordinarily detailed maps of Ireland, probably second only to the Irish government itself.  Aside from maps of regions in and around possible landing sites in the country, they had street maps of the following twenty-five cities and towns: Armagh, Athlone, Ballymena, Belfast, Carlow, Clonmel, Cobh, Coleraine, Cork, Drogheda, Dublin, Dundalk, Enniskillen, Galway, Killarney, Limerick, Derry, Navan, Newry, Portadown, Sligo, Tralee, Waterford, Westport and Wexford.

Having more than a passing interest in anything to do with World War II, the selection of towns that the Germans focused on intrigues me.  I can't imagine it's accidental.  Coastal towns I understand.  In fact, the Germans had considered landing sites north of Dublin, near Limerick in the Shannon estuary, at Cobh, Galway and even Derry.  They discounted most of Donegal and the rest of the west coast.  I suspect that towns like Enniskillen, Armagh, Newry and Armagh were included for another reason.  Derry was to feature in this separate operation.

The alternative invasion plan that the Germans had was called Plan Kathleen.  It was the brainchild of the Abwehr, which was essentially the spy/intelligence agency and not related to the army.  The key assumption in the plan was that nationalists in the north of Ireland would side with the Germans against the British.  The goal was, therefore, to create insurrection in Northern Ireland.  They were under the belief that they could engage about five thousand members of the IRA in the south of Ireland to assist them in the invasion of the North.  German troops, a small contingent, would land near Derry.  The IRA was to lie in wait across the border in Leitrim while the Germans appeared in and around Lower and Upper Lough Erne.  For some reason, Roslea in County Fermanagh played a prominent role in the planning.  It's not clear how the Germans would get troops into Northern Ireland, but I suspect they must have considered an aerial assault.  The planning itself is scant; this operation would probably have flopped.  Had the Germans made it from France and landed in the south of Ireland, Operation Green would most likely have been successful and if the intention was to draw English troops into Ireland, it would have worked.

In the end, just like for Operation Sea Lion, the Germans didn't have sufficient boats to transport troops.  They found very few in France that would have been suitable for the crossing.  Some French vessels were enlisted to move gold overseas.  Others appeared to have been hidden from the Germans.

There are many sources of information on the plans the Germans had for Ireland.  If you can withstand a gaping look of shock and horror, you can find a reference librarian and ask if "you can help me find a copy of the original German plans for the invasion of Ireland in 1940?"  There are some other books on the subject, but the best one—the book from which I got a lot of information for this short essay—is In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality, 1939-45 by Robert Fisk.  The book doesn't focus exclusively on the years 1939 to 45; it starts with a detailed and interesting passage on the Treaty Ports, handed back to the Irish by the British in 1938.

 

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