Irish Republican Army (1922–1969) - The IRA During World War II

The IRA During World War II

  • Main articles: IRA Abwehr World War II, Northern Campaign (IRA), and The Emergency

During the Second World War, the IRA leadership hoped for support from Germany to strike against Britain during the war, and Seán Russell travelled to Germany in 1940 to canvass for arms. He became ill and died on board a German U-boat which was bringing him back to Ireland in August that year along with Frank Ryan (See Operation Dove). Stephen Hayes, the acting Chief of Staff, prepared an invasion plan for Northern Ireland and sent it to German Intelligence in 1940, this plan was later called Plan Kathleen, but it was discovered by the Irish authorities within one month of its creation.

Gunther Schuetz, a member of the Abwehr, parachuted into Ireland and was almost immediately arrested. On 28 February 1942 he escaped. The IRA intended to send him back to Germany with a request for weapons, ammunition, explosives, radio equipment and money. The IRA Army Executive met on 20 April and sanctioned the requests. They resolved “to give military information to powers at war with England, which would not endanger civilian lives, even before any definite contacts have been established with these powers.” An IRA courier was arrested on the Dublin-Belfast train with documentation of the decisions taken, and details of the German contact. This led to the arrest of Schuetz, on 30 April, only hours before he was due to set sail. The boat was seized and the crew arrested.

In 1942, the IRA launched an armed campaign in Northern Ireland. It has been rumoured that during the war period IRA members may have attempted to aid the German aerial bombing of industrial targets in Northern Ireland. However, information recovered from Germany after the war showed that the planning of raids such as the Belfast Blitz was based exclusively on the aerial reconnaissance of the Luftwaffe.

The IRA was severely damaged by the measures taken against it by the governments on both sides of the border during the Second World War. IRA members were interned both north and south of the border, and a number of IRA men, including the chief of staff between 1942 and 1944, Charlie Kerins, were executed for criminal offences by the Irish government during the war. Kerins had been tried and found guilty of the murder of a local police officer (Garda).

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