Neutrality, Vichy, Provisional Government, Ireland, France, diplomacy, Petain, Charles de Gaulle, Rene Massigli, Sean Murphy, Eamon de Valera, Joseph Walshe, CFLN, GPRF, D-Day, Operation Torch, liberation, international law
The article reframes Irish wartime neutrality. It posits that Ireland’s policy towards Vichy France conformed to the prevailing legal interpretations in the field of diplomatic recognition. This was consistent with the practice of Ireland’s longstanding recognition policy from the 1930s until the 1960s. An enigma, however, envelops Ireland’s retention of the Irish Minister to the Republic of France, Seán Murphy, after the fall of Marshall Philippe Pétain in August 1944. Charles de Gaulle’s Provisional Government demanded the replacement of all heads of missions who had served in France during the Vichy interlude. This violated the traditional practice of recognition law as understood by Ireland and other neutrals. But the neutrals, with the exception of Ireland, reluctantly complied with the demand. How did the Irish Department of External Affairs succeed in circumventing this? No evidence of an illusive ‘back channel’, that some authors speculate ended the accreditation crisis, has been found. There is limited evidence that secondary factors, such as the proposed establishment of an Irish Red Cross Hospital in Normandy, played a direct or significant role in senior French decisionmakers’ calculations to reverse their policy in the case of Murphy. This article offers a fresh explanation for France’s extension of a dispensation to Ireland: on petition from the Irish government, René Massigli, the new French Ambassador in London, made two decisive interventions which altered the climate of opinion in Paris and enabled Seán Murphy to remain.