Éire in the Emergency and the Irish in Britain

Ian S. Wood

in Britain, Ireland and the Second World War

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780748623273
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651412 | DOI:
Éire in the Emergency and the Irish in Britain

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For the Irish state and its people, the social memory of the period 1939 to 1945 was defined by the relative deprivations brought about by the Emergency. Without the movement of labour to Britain, these would have been much worse, but hardship became acute for the urban and rural poor who remained. Despite the words of the 1916 Easter proclamation, a self-governing Irish state had signally failed to ‘cherish all its children equally’, and the Emergency had worsened the plight of many of them. But the real war for Irish people was that experienced by those who made their decision to enlist in Britain's forces, and their story has begun to be told and to be recognised belatedly by the Irish state itself. As it became clear that the war was going to be a long one, Britain's requirements for labour also became paramount and, starting in the winter of 1940, it had contact through the Ministry of Labour with the Dublin government over the practicalities of recruiting workers in Éire. By early 1941, applications for work in Britain were putting severe pressure on Éire's labour exchanges and, in July of that year, agreement was reached by the two governments on ways to facilitate the movement of Irish workers to Britain.

Keywords: Second World War; Irish people; wartime labour; Emergency years; Irish workers; labour exchanges

Chapter.  13128 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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