The 1969 Anglo-Irish War

4 September 2009

This week a recently-released documentary on RTE, the Irish national television station, made a rather stunning claim: that at the height of the Troubles an Irish plan to invade and seize the North was seriously meted by the government of then-premier Jack Lynch.  The documentary, If Lynch Had Invaded…, suggests that the incursion would have had dramatic consequences, including Irish ostracism at the UN and the likely decimation of the invaders by responding British forces.

The Irish Times saw a copy of the military report, vaguely entitled “Interim Report of Planning Board on Northern Ireland Operations.”  (I could only find the introduction, which the Times ran four years ago, here.)  It assumed an Irish attack without warning or declaration and that even a total commitment by the understrength Irish Army would be violently checked by the British.  (At the time the entirety of the Irish Army was only a bit more than double the size of the British forces in Northern Ireland at the time, themselves a small fraction of the British forces available for home service.)

Though the veracity of the claim that Irish ministers actually pushed for war has been challenged, the fact that the ministers concerned were forced out or resigned shortly thereafter for covertly selling arms to the IRA doesn’t lend me much room for doubt.   Either way it’s an interesting description of how far the benighted “Irish Question” has come, considering that a threatened British withdrawal from the North five years later was met by furious opposition from the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister.

[UPDATE: Someone has posted the documentary in full on YouTube.  First part is here.]