An original “Blueshirt” from the 1930s, the era when the Blueshirts were formed as an Irish pro-fascist party, admirers of Hitler’s National Socialism, was sold at Whyte’s Auction in Dublin for $2,000, in October 2015.
The Blueshirts were founded by former Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader Eoin O’Duffy, who later joined Cumann Na nGaedheal, the forerunner of Fine Gael.
An anti-communist, O'Duffy was attracted to the various fascist nationalist movements on the Continent. He raised the Irish Brigade to fight for Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War as an act of Catholic solidarity and he was inspired by Benito Mussolini's Italy to found the National Corporate Party. He offered to Nazi Germany the prospect of raising an Irish Brigade to fight in Operation Barbarossa during World War II on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union, but this was not taken up.
In July 1933 O'Duffy became leader of the Army Comrades Association, ostensibly set up to protect Cumann na nGaedheal public meetings, which had been disrupted under the slogan "No Free Speech for Traitors" by Irish Republican Army men newly confident after the elections. O'Duffy and many other conservative elements within the Irish Free State began to embrace fascist ideology, which was in vogue at that time.
He immediately changed the name of this new movement to the National Guard. O'Duffy was an admirer of the Italian leader Benito Mussolini and his organization adopted outward symbols of European fascism such as the straight-arm Roman salute and a distinctive blue uniform. It was not long before they became known as the Blueshirts.
The item on sale was a “blue cotton military-style shirt with epaulettes and breast pockets and embroidered shield-shaped Fine Gael badge stitched to the left breast; together with a blue cotton uniform belt.”
The auctioneers stated the item attracted considerable interest as an historical artifact. A “Blueshirts” flag – estimated at the same price – failed to sell.
To this day "Blueshirt" is used as a derogatory term about Fine Gael from political opponents.
*Originally published in October 2015.