Ireland, Irish Land Commission, EEC, European integration, Ireland, Nazism, modernisation, Denmark, Switzerland, liberalisation, industrialisation, IRA, Sinn Fein, Jack Lynch, Otto Skorzeny, Otto von Doernberg, Oliver J. Flanagan, Frank Aiken, Sean Lemass
Land hunger was a pervasive feature of Irish rural society which had not disappeared with the attainment of national independence. Rural agitation for land redistribution was conducted by many small indigenous farmers and it acquired an extraordinary anti-German tone after 1960. This was partially fuelled by a wave of international media speculation about Ireland as a base for Nazis eluding justice, but it was also driven by the notable success of Irish agencies in attracting German investment to Ireland. Consequently, the land question spilled into Irish efforts to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Ireland's application to join the European Economic Community (EEC). Governments were slow to respond to the demands of the rural radicals: heavy-handedness against foreign landholdings might endanger Ireland's international reputation at the very time that the country was seeking to shake off an anti-progress and insular image. Militant republican involvement in land agitation stirred additional concern. When the Irish Land Commission compulsorily purchased the properties of a handful of West Germans in 1969, the Bundestag of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) debated the matter. This ostensibly served as the rationale for vandalism, arson, and bomb attacks against foreign-owned farms and properties at a critical point: Northern Ireland was careering out of control and Dublin's priority was to join the EEC. The government defended the right to private property and it could not halt the EEC's liberalisation of agricultural land purchases after 1970: membership of the EEC was the overriding strategic objective. In sum, land ownership had formed part of the bedrock of Irish nationalism since at least the nineteenth century and Irish adaptation to the liberal international economy generated predictable resistance. The linkage between land ownership and national citizenship was not unique to the Irish, as the Danes, the Dutch, and several countries bordering West Germany experienced comparable difficulties in the 1960s and the 1970s.