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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

Revealed: Ireland’s surveillance activities during World War Two

The newly released files also uncover attempts to turn Ireland into a fascist state, in addition to Britain’s wartime recruitment within the 26 counties.

Éamon de Valera, left, and Frank Aiken, Minister for Defence being escorted by officers of the Free State Army, on the former's arrival on Spike Island, on 11 July, 1938.
Éamon de Valera, left, and Frank Aiken, Minister for Defence being escorted by officers of the Free State Army, on the former's arrival on Spike Island, on 11 July, 1938.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE EXTENT OF Ireland’s war-related activities during the second world war have been revealed.

Newly released files from the Department of Justice and Equality show the surveillance of both non-Irish and Irish people, the IRA sympathisers who were among them, attempts to turn Ireland into a fascist state and the beginnings of Britain’s wartime recruitment within the 26 counties.

Propaganda

The state also took steps to prevent those who where living here from engaging in propaganda, regardless of their nationality. Once such case was that of Dr Kapeller, an Austrian refugee, to which the Office of the Controller of Censorship in Dublin Castle was alerted.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/249, available from the National Archives)

So what did the propaganda consist of? The answer: two broadcasts to the French wartime radio station Radiodiffusion Nationale, where he said that recent events had shown Napoleon to be “quite a gentleman”.

Declaring that the complaint was not “about the substance” but rather the fact that “while enjoying our hospitality he is prepared to take an active part in Allied propaganda,” the call was made to make him act with “some discretion and consideration for us.”

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/249, available from the National Archives)

A more overt piece of propaganda – in this case, pro-German – was the “News From Germany.” The principal contents of the September/October 1939 edition, as held in the National Archives, is bookended by the “Führer’s Great Speech in Danzig” and one by Mussolini.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/250, available from the National Archives)

Surveillance

The company that was kept by foreign nationals resident in Ireland was also monitored. One such case was that of Dr C. H. Peterson, a German national and Press Attache to the German Legation. Of particular interest was his relationship with a Miss Kay Lynch.

Having had her plans of travel to the US postponed due to the outbreak of war, Lynch, a secretary, lived in the same building as Peterson, where she spent “most of her spare time in his company.”

Attending the “cinema and other entertainments together,” surveillance by the Detective Branch concluded that “Miss Lynch is a frivolous type of individual who is fond of drink”. Noting her “infatuation” with Peterson, they found no reason to believe that the time she spent with him was “prompted by any motive of an illegal character.”

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/250, available from the National Archives)

Members of the public were also vigilant for anything out of the ordinary. When a German training ship visited Cobh in 1939, the manager of a clothing shop, who was an ex-British officer, noted their purchases when ashore.

The opinion of the Manager is, seeing that landing of troops by Parachutes is not a feature of the German Army, the purchases may have been made for deception purposes. He was, he states, paid the amount in British notes, and he also states they were very desirous of purchasing suitings of different colours and weight.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/251, available from the National Archives)

Members of the Italian community were also monitored. When an Italian ship was moored at the North Wall, its crew, along with who they came in contact with, were observed.

One such incident involved Ernest Randolfi, a chip shop owner living in Dublin. Having visited the crew, it was determined that his car, which “is used for pleasure” was used to bring some of the sailors to the Gaiety Theatre.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/252, available from the National Archives)

IRA links

IRA sympathisers were also found among some foreign nationals resident in Ireland. A report from 8 June, 1940 established that a Karel Stieber, from the then Czechoslovakia, and who had been an officer in the Austrian army during The Great War, found that he was regarded as having “pro-Nazi sympathies” and “being “friendly to the I.R.A element” in the sugar beet factory in Tuam, where he was a manager.

Or particular note was his relationship with a Charles Reynolds, who had previously been interned. Despite living “a retired life” the decision was made to maintain “discreet observation locally”.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/251, available from the National Archives)

Later in 1940, the movements of German Alice Micha were recorded. Having “developed the habit of staying out until very late hours at night” her employment had ceased, her having “become uppish and arrogant in her manner” towards her employer.

She spends her time in the company of persons known to be supporters of the I.R.A. She makes no secret of her admiration for the objects of the I.R.A. or the German War effort and successes.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/252, available from the National Archives)

Monthly reports

Regular reports were also maintained, with reports listing any change of address or behaviour. In the case of German woman Carla Mensing, who was living in Monkstown, Co Cork in February 1940, “the special source available to Gardaí” had not observed anything within the last month to arouse suspicion.

Her social life had taken a dip, however, as her associate, a Miss Harty, had “not taxed her car for the current quarter, so that they no longer go for drives together.”

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/250, available from the National Archives)

Finance

Strange transactions were also investigated by Gardaí during wartime. In a letter relating to “aliens suspected of espionage,” German national Heine Langheld was suspected of not declaring money, having told a local grocer that he did not hold a bank account in order to get him to cash cheques on his behalf.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/251, available from the National Archives)

Making Ireland a fascist state

The “promotion of a Fascist State in this country” was also observed in Ireland during wartime. Having been made aware of German literature in which “British Government was strongly criticised,” those who were believed to favour a fascist state included an ex-TD and an ex-member of the IRA.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/08, available from the National Archives)

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/08, available from the National Archives)

British Army recruitment

Exactly a week after Britain declared war on Germany, recruiting for the British Army was found to be taking place at a meeting of the Cashel Branch of the British Legion. Having been attended and “carefully watched” by Gardaí, the decision was taken by those in attendance to “communicate with the British War Office and the British Legion Head Quarters.”

The position is being carefully watched, having due regard to the possibility of attack eminating from the I.R.A and any developments will be reported.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/467, available from the National Archives)

Earlier that year, Garda Commissioner Carroll has stated that Gardaí were no longer to provide references for “local persons who are applicants for British Forces,” replying that Garda Regulations prevented it.

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(Image taken from file 2011/25/467, available from the National Archives)

Read: Norwegian police apologise for deportation of Jews during WWII >

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