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World War III? No problem - half a million Irish will fight it

Secret document revealed under 30-year rule shows Ireland had been assessed for the help it could provide in the case of a nuclear war threat.

Ronald Reagan on his inauguration on 20 January 1981 - meanwhile, Ireland was considering its role in the Cold War...
Ronald Reagan on his inauguration on 20 January 1981 - meanwhile, Ireland was considering its role in the Cold War...
Image: AP Photo

IRELAND MIGHT PRIDE itself on its neutrality (apart from this revelation re. CJ Haughey) but 30 years ago, it was ready to let half a million of its people defend the country with the UK should nuclear-fuelled World War III break out.

The contents of the previously secret The Strategic Importance of Ireland to the UK in Times of War document can be revealed along with other State papers from 1981 this weekend. Ireland was in essence being prepared to be of help to the UK should such a nuclear showdown come about. This was the height of the Cold War of course, and the year Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as President of the US. This report was compiled by Irish intelligence services and warned that Ireland could be in immediate danger in the event of any Soviet attack on the west.

As a result, Ireland’s possible assistance to Nato forces was outlined as:

  • the availability of over 500,000 people fit for military service
  • the possibility that a total of 44 of our ports could be used by military
  • having oil resources that could be tapped to provide fuel
  • be used as a stopover/base for American troops
  • have radar sites established on the west and south coast to provide an early warning system for nuclear strikes.

Read more from the 1981 State papers>

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