Robert Fisk: German Captains, U-Boats and Other Lies About Ireland





[Robert Fisk is an award-winning Middle East correspondent for the Independent. A journalist with decades of experience in foreign reporting, Fisk has interviewed Osama bin Laden multiple times and has been repeatedly recognized and awarded for his work.]

By chance, I arrived in Dublin this week on the day that the Saville report on Bloody Sunday was published....

...[L]ooking back on those terrible years, I am horrified at not just the gullibility of us reporters but at our sheer ignorance. Like most of my other young colleagues, I had a university education but no real knowledge of Ireland. There were few good books then on modern Irish history. And I fear that many of us – despite our liberal upbringing and our acknowledgement of Stormont’s injustice to the Catholics – were under the subconscious influence of darker images; the old Punch cartoon, for example, of the drunken Irishman holding a cudgel with which he would without any reason murder the refined young Englishmen who kept invading his country

We knew that Ireland was neutral in the Second World War, and heard that Taoiseach de Valera had paid a visitor’s condolence to the German legation on Hitler’s death and an Irishman on the west coast had refuelled German U-boats. Ireland was indeed neutral and de Valera did his make his notorious condolence visit. But the U-boat story was a lie....

Yet the stories grew after the war. Only a few years ago, The Independent’s letters page was filled with readers discussing the refuelling of U-boats by Irishmen. I wearily ignored it all. But I understand how this happens. A plausible story turns into a true story, even if it’s a lie. Which is what happened after Bloody Sunday, when the army’s top brass decided to libel the dead. Maybe Saville has nailed their lies. But I have my doubts.


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