Friday, June 5, 2015

The Blueshirts

So I have decided to set my A Very British Civil War games in Ireland and the North, I am working on a back story 
 and I have begun painting up some Blueshirt models, you can see the assembly line and first finished model below.
The most serious fascist movement to emerge in Ireland were the Blueshirts during the 1930s. At their height, the Blueshirts had as many as 48,000 members, organised across the Free State and were led by a man who Michael Collins had identified as his successor.

Although Eoin O’Duffy’s later misadventures in Spain have contributed an air of farce to his legacy, he had been recognised as a senior IRA figure in 1921 and, after a spell as a Free State Army General, he became the first Commissioner of the new state’s police force – a pedigree that was in many ways made for the leadership of a new fascist movement, which was initially made up of ex-army officers (hence its first title of  Army Comrades Association).

Despite attempts to airbrush the history of the Blueshirts by claiming that they were only a reaction to fear of Fianna Fáil and the IRA, in reality their leadership was deeply influenced by the politics of European fascism. When Éamon de Valera succeeded in gaining power in 1932 (at the head of a minority government supported by both the Labour Party and the IRA), a section of the pro-Treaty leadership shifted dramatically rightwards.

The Cumann na nGaedheal administration had been staunchly conservative to start with, but when faced with defeat in 1932, they reacted with horror at the prospect of the ‘irregulars’ of 1922 coming into office. A section of the pro-Treaty elite, among them Ernest Blythe and Desmond FitzGerald, and others such as the intellectual James Hogan (the author of Could Ireland Become Communist?) were attracted to elements of European fascist thought. Hogan, a lecturer in University College Cork and an IRA veteran, would claim that ‘it was the growing menace of the communist IRA that called forth the Blueshirts (just) as communist anarchy called forth the Blackshirts in Italy’.

These men suggested that Fianna Fáil would open the door for the IRA, and through them communism. Less ideologically, they expressed dissatisfaction with democracy on the basis that when given the choice, voters had rejected them. Added to that, the pro-Treaty grassroots, especially the large farmers, feared Fianna Fáil’s promises of land distribution and welfare expansion.

When Eoin O’Duffy was sacked as Garda Commissioner by de Valera in early 1933, he became the symbol of Treatyite resistance. Under him, the Army Comrades Association – which underwent a bewildering array of name-changes to avoid government bans – adopted the blue shirt and the right-arm salute and grew rapidly. Violence escalated as republicans and left-wingers battled the Blueshirts during the winter of 1933-34.
Links were made with fascist organisations on the continent. Even as O’Duffy was made President of the new Fine Gael party, the more staid conservatives in the ranks began to run scared of the street battles and the General’s increasingly wild pronouncements.

Nevertheless, a future Taoiseach, John A. Costello, during a debate on a bill to outlaw paramilitary uniform in 1934, told the Dáil that ‘the Blackshirts were victorious in Italy and that the Hitler shirts were victorious in Germany, as, assuredly, in spite of this Bill and in spite of the Public Safety Act, the Blueshirts will be victorious in the Irish Free State’.

amazingly my Grand father served with O Duffy in Spain


  1. A great story,
    Thank you for this.

    I think the man is a good (and needs) to know his own country and his own history,
    These are the faits accomplis, which we later generation, we can not do anything.

  2. Fabulous read, thanks for sharing.

    That thing I was asking you about didn't get delivered as the postal service couldn't find you old address.