This article was translated by John R. Bopp
Not too long ago, we discussed an interesting article published in the Swiss daily Basler Zeitung, written by historian Josef Lang, that analyzed the treatment some Swiss newspapers gave the news of the destruction of Guernica in the days following the bombing.
Today, we’ve found a similar article from the Irish Times, written by University of Ulster doctoral student William Burton, which analyzes the editorial position of some of the Irish dailies regarding the evacuation of some 4,000 Basque children to Great Britain after the bombing of Guernica. It’s a topic we’ve covered heavily in our blog.
Many of us Basques consider the Irish as our “brothers to the north”. We might even consider them to be “our big brothers”. They, in the 20th century, managed to gain independence for most of their territory. This, for the Basques who had just started on their journey to the creation of a Basque state just 25 years before Ireland achieved its freedom, was an example and an inspirational role model. It must also be taken into account, of course, that both societies coincide in being deeply Catholic societies.
When, after the Bombing of Guernica, British public opinion broke with their government’s opposition to allowing the refugee children in, Ireland was immersed in a referendum process to approve a constitution that would take them out of the Commonwealth and which would finally turn Ireland into a republic with no link to the British Empire. It was a referendum that was won on a very narrow margin, which might help explain Irish sensibilities to everything that had something to do with Great Britain.
But we still can’t help but be surprised by the position some newspapers took to those refugee children being taken in by Great Britain. We were aware of the majority support the Irish had for the Francoist insurgents, based mostly on the idea that supporting Franco was supporting the Catholic Church. We also understand that at that time, for many Irish, anything that the British did was by definition wrong. But we still can’t help but be surprised by the opposition of the Irish media to allowing those children, who were living under bombings, to take refuge in Great Britain, and especially to the arguments they used to criticize that evacuation.
It’s an interesting work that helps us understand the position of the most Catholics in Ireland, and the world, toward the Spanish Civil War. And it helps us understand how that position against a republic (which was seen as an enemy to God) and favorable to some insurgents (who were seen as the defenders of Christ and His Church), affected those Basques who fought for freedom against totalitarianism.
It’s also interesting to see the reference the author makes to the current situation, which is very similar to that which we set forth ourselves in these articles.
Irish Times – 25/4/2017 – Irlanda
Escaping the horror of Guernica – An Irishman’s Diary on Basque child refugees in 1937
The decision of the government in November 2016 to admit 200 child refugees into Ireland after the closure of the “Jungle” Calais refugee camp was warmly welcomed across the political spectrum. Yet Ireland has not always been welcoming to child refugees.A notable example is in reactions to the fate of Basque child refugees fleeing Gen Franco’s bombers after the attack on Guernica during the Spanish civil war.