Former Irish leader Sean Lemass stated British right-wingers wanted to ensure no end to partition and infiltrated the IRA to start a bombing campaign.
Former Irish leader Sean Lemass, who was Taoiseach (Prime Minister) from 1959 to 1966, believes the IRA campaign of 1939 in Britain was so destructive that it ended any talk of getting rid of partition.
In a new set of interview tapes carried in the Irish Times, Lemass often called the “Father of Modern Ireland,” stated it was such a destructive campaign that it was very likely that British spies orchestrated it to finish any talk of ending partition.
Lemass recalls that Eamon de Valera and British leader Neville Chamberlain had an excellent relationship and Chamberlain had told de Valera in 1938 he saw no issue with ending partition if the opportunity arose.
The Irish Times notes that “Lemass accused the IRA of scuppering attempts by the Irish government to open a line of dialogue with the Stormont government over the issue of partition.
The bombing campaign which began in 1939 was the “most disastrous thing that could have happened”, he declared, and so contrary to Irish interests that it could only have been work of British agents.”
Chamberlain’s comments were seen as very important by de Valera in that he was the first British leader to conclude that partition could well be ended.
De Valera then sought a secret dialogue with Northern Ireland’s unionist leaders. (Later in the war Winston Churchill is said to have offered Ireland the end of partition if they joined the Allies fight.)
Then the inexplicable IRA campaign began as the Second World War raged.
It was Lemass said,“so contrary to Irish interests at the time that I always suspected that the British secret service was behind it, that the IRA had been infiltrated by some secret service man who was opposed to this idea [of ending partition]”.
Lemass told his interviewer Dermot Ryan he was “deeply suspicious of the whole business and indeed both then and for quite a long time afterwards. I held the idea that the IRA was undoubtedly being influenced by some hostile element of that kind It always seemed to become active whenever it suited this ultra-conservative element in Great Britain that it should become active, or did the very things that were going to destroy whatever hopes were emerging from our political activities.”