Though officially neutral during the Second World War, Ireland still faced the consequences of the conflict. The war was an everyday presence, as thousands of men left to enlist in Britain or work in the war industries, while those who remained behind coped with rationing and the stifling policies of a government studiously determined to avoid any sort of commitment whatsoever. In this book, Brian Girvin provides an overview of these years, one that demonstrates well the strains the Irish government and the Irish people faced during this time.
Girvin’s focus in these pages is on the political and diplomatic history of the period. Only one chapter looks at the broader social aspects of the conflict, and that one is a study of those Irish who enlisted in the British military. The rest offer a detailed and dry description of the Irish government’s determined effort to remain neutral despite the enormous political pressure brought to bear on it, particularly by Britain and the United States. While useful as an up-to-date description of Ireland’s sometimes tortuous efforts to navigate a safe path between the two sides, for a fuller picture of the Irish wartime experience it should be read in conjunction with Clair Wills’s excellent That Neutral Island, which describes the broader social and cultural impact of the war on the Emerald Isle.