Several of the Irish newspapers have been reporting another anniversary (though not a centenary, for once!): 75 years since the handing over to Irish control of what were referred to as “the Treaty Ports”. These were three deep-water navy bases that the British retained control of under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. (There were actually four, Belfast being the other one, but this stipulation became meaningless after Northern Ireland opted to remain in the UK.)
One thing in the speech given by the Taoiseach at an anniversary ceremony at Spike Island (Cork) struck me, though. Here’s what he said:
Eamon De Valera, in a brilliant piece of diplomacy which ended the Anglo-Irish economic War, ensured the return of the Treaty Ports, and by so doing, allowed our nation to remain neutral in World War II. History will rightly record this as one of his most outstanding achievements.
I’ve not got the time to look it up properly, but I always thought Britain returned the ports unconditionally in accordance with the policy of appeasement of PM Neville “Why of course you can invade Czechoslovakia, Mr Hitler” Chamberlain. So what exactly was de Valera’s masterstroke there? Saying “yes”?
[Edit: The Irish Times has some nice pictures: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/galleries/remembering-handover-of-spike-island-1.1461662]Treaty Port handover 'just like yesterday' by Bruce Gaston