Green Voices of the Past: Joseph McGarrity, Irish Republicanism, and Irish Organizing in the Months before World War II
Posted for: Emily Poteat.
As a person with a passion for the history of World War II, it is needless to say I was intrigued at the prospect of transcribing Joseph McGarrity’s diary from 1939. Through his distinctive scrawling handwriting, McGarrity details his hopes, his Irish-republican organizing, and his personal opinions about the happenings of the world in the immediate months preceding the Second World War.
Beyond this, McGarrity’s diary is immensely riveting in nature. Within just the first few pages, one is teleported into one of the Irish-republican effort’s most prolific minds, as he charts and plans how the Irish republican cause could benefit from an alliance with the Third Reich. On page ten of the manuscript McGarrity directly states that he sought, from an alliance with Nazi Germany, “technicians…particularly chemical experts,” to “ask for submarine experts to be trained,” and most tellingly with his intentions “that sufficient war stuffs be supplied in the line of war material for a major engagement in England.” As evidenced by McGarrity’s rhetoric, McGarrity and his Irish republican compatriots were planning for a major military effort and armed engagements on mainland England in the months preceding World War II. This is significant, as from my experience with McGarrity’s personal manuscripts, this is the first time he directly alluded to his involvement in arms procurement for the sole purpose of armed warfare with England. Furthermore, McGarrity’s diary entry directly points to a major Irish-republican effort to align itself with Hitler’s Nazi Germany right before World War II.
Most pertinently, McGarrity’s diary points to an intentional effort of Irish Republicans to organize armed engagement beyond anonymous bombings in England, which McGarrity chronicles in his diary as well. The purpose of this alignment with Germany in 1939 for McGarrity, was to force England to remove its forces from Northern Ireland and to allow both Ireland and Northern Ireland to unite into a single republican nation. If this were to occur, McGarrity believed that recognition by other nations was critical to the success of a completely independent and united Ireland, as he professes on page ten “since the freedom of Ireland would mean the freedom of the seas early Recognition by German Italy + [sic] Spain and as many of the Government as Germany and Her Allies can influence should come as early a date as possible.” Clearly, McGarrity saw an alliance with Nazi Germany as a clear way to push forward the effort to unite the Ireland and Northern Ireland. Distinctively, further corroborating McGarrity’s intention is his statement on page ten, “in case war supplies must be landed in England so that an Irish Republican force can get into action there on a big scale I feel sure they would be joined by many thousands of Irish once operations would begin in England.”
Expounding on McGarrity’s idea that the Irish Republican cause would benefit through an alliance with Germany, McGarrity, throughout his diary is incredibly critical of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, his cabinet, and the British parliament. Evidence for this lies in McGarrity’s numerous newspaper clippings he includes in his diary, that often only include critical assessments of the British government or critical views surrounding Roosevelt’s intentions towards the Irish cause.
As a whole, McGarrity’s 1939 diary offers important insight into the way Irish Americans, and Irish republicans like Joseph McGarrity, sought to align themselves, as well as sought to continue the Irish republican cause in the immediate months before the Second World War.
Emily Poteat is a graduate assistant in Irish Studies and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Department, and a graduate student in the History Department.