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De Valera colluded with British authorities to break the IRA

Newly-released documents show how Éamon De Valera colluded with the British authorities to crush the IRA.

Eamon De Valera on the steps of No. 10 Downing Street, London.
Eamon De Valera on the steps of No. 10 Downing Street, London.
Image: Press Association Images

ÉAMON DE VALERA’S government colluded with the British authorities in order to crush the IRA, according to newly released documents.

De Valera made contact with the British authorities with the aim of conducting a smear campaign against the IRA chief of staff Sean Russell, following a spate of IRA bombings in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Coventry in the late 1930s. In Coventry in August 1939 five people were killed after a bomb carried on a bicycle exploded in a street.

The move, known as the Sabotage or S-Plan, was concocted on the cusp of the Second World War by De Valera – who had himself been involved in the 1916 Easter Rising. De Valera’s government was rattled by the violence and determined to have Ireland perceived as a neutral country, and not be seen as a threat to the UK or dragged back into a bloody civil war.

The papers show that De Valera, who outlawed the IRA in 1936, asked London for assistance to smear Sean Russell as a communist agent. He was also mindful of trying those responsible for IRA attacks to be tried in Ireland, instead of Britain, to avoid the risk of them being treated as martyrs.

BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting a documentary, Document, on the story tonight (Monday 28 March) at 8pm BST.

Read more of Mike Thomson’s report in the BBC >

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