Seán Russell

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 1 (Jan/Feb 2005), Letters, Letters, Volume 13

The Observer and the Irish Independent reported (2 January 2005) that an anonymous group claimed responsibility for vandalising the statue of IRA leader Seán Russell in Fairview Park, Dublin. It said that as Europe prepares to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps, it could no longer tolerate a statue in honour of Seán Russell because he was a ‘Nazi collaborator’.
Seán Russell was essentially a physical-force Republican, and, from what we know, he had little interest in ideologies and politics. It was the task of the IRA to achieve independence by military means, and then things would be left to the politicians. The Nazis’ attempts to indoctrinate Russell with their philosophy and politics failed spectacularly. Russell told one German official: ‘I am not a Nazi. I’m not even pro-German. I am an Irishman fighting for the independence of Ireland. The British have been our enemies for hundreds of years. They are the enemy of Germany today. If it suits Germany to give us help to achieve independence, I am willing to accept it, but no more, and there must be no strings attached’ (Irish Times, 6 June 1958).
This is also made clear in Adrian Hoar’s recent biography of Frank Ryan. Some historians also attempt to frame Frank Ryan (the famous left-wing Republican who fought in the International Brigades against fascism in Spain) as some kind of Nazi collaborator (see, for example, Fearghal McGarry, who writes on p. 65 of his 2002 biography of Frank Ryan’s ‘conscious determination to collaborate’ with the Nazis). Frank Ryan was no collaborator; he was a man of great integrity, and his attempts to bolster German respect for Irish neutrality can be better explained as serving his homeland. Ryan rejoiced on hearing of the Soviet victory at Stalingrad.
It is interesting to see how constant attempts are made to associate Irish Republicanism with fascism and Nazism, while at the same time conscious attempts are made to whitewash the Blueshirts, saying they were not really fascist after all. The fascists in Ireland come from the Fine Gael, not the Republican, tradition.
Liam Ó Ruairc,
Belfast

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