Germany calling Ireland

 Joe Carroll

People who listened to German Radio’s propaganda broadcasts to neutral Ireland during World War II must now be a small number. They began as a weekly talk in Irish but expanded to broadcasts in Irish and English, often using Francis Stuart (the novelist who was married to Sean MacBride’s half-sister Iseult) who was  teaching in a university in wartime Berlin.

David O’Donoghue has written what is regarded as the definitive account of this curious operation of Nazi propaganda aimed at the maintenance of Irish neutrality by holding out vague promises of Irish re-unification when Germany would become master of Europe. A constant theme was English ill-treatment of Ireland over the centuries and the need to preserve a native Irish language and culture.

The latter aim was identical with Irish government policy, but the authorities in Dublin were wary of the broadcasts which were carefully monitored by the Army Intelligence Service known as G2 and also the BBC.

The IRA was known to have set up links with German intelligence and there were understandable fears in Dublin that the broadcasts could be used for conveying covert messages for the benefit of Nazi agents. Most of them had been quickly captured, but Hermann Goertz had been at large for 18 months in Dublin and Co. Wicklow. The author believes that the broadcasting of extracts from the Irish translation of the Wolfe Tone diaries, for example, was used to pass coded messages.


Celtic scholars in Berlin such as Adolf Mahr, Hans Hartmann and Ludwig Mulhausen set up the broadcasts to Ireland with the latter two giving regular talks in Irish. Later, English items were added using Stuart and John O’Reilly from Kilkee who had been working in the Channel Islands when they were occupied by the Wehrmacht.  He was later parachuted into Ireland to spy for the Germans, but was soon arrested.

Dr Mahr, who had been appointed Director of the National Museum in Dublin in 1934 and was an Austrian, upgraded the Irish broadcasts on the basis of a 15-page blueprint approved by the Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop. It is re-produced in the book and shows his extensive knowledge of Irish history.  He had been the head of the Irish Nazi group in pre-war Dublin, but his attempt to win back his museum job after the war was rejected by the Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, who had originally appointed him.

How many Irish listeners there were to the German broadcasts is unknown, but they were probably not many. Reception on short wave was poor and batteries were scarce for radio sets in rural Ireland. The author has interviewed some of the listeners and they were not impressed with the quality of the broadcasts.

This book which is a new expanded edition fills a gap in the story of Irish-German relations during our so-called Emergency. There are interesting pictures of all the main characters.