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Franco's Irish Volunteers

Robert Stradling uncovers the tale of the Irishmen who went off to fight for the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War and the reaction they provoked, then and now.

Fifty years ago last December, a state funeral was held in Dublin to honour one of the great heroes of the Irish struggle for national independence. The deceased had been a gallant soldier and failed politician, whose name has now all but disappeared from the historical record; it was Eoin O’Duffy. The formal commemoration of General O'Duffy's death, by what was soon to become the Irish Republic, was ordered by his most determined domestic opponent, Eamon de Valera, leader of the ruling party, Fianna Fail.

Apart from the Taoiseach and most of the cabinet, the ceremonies were attended by the Spanish Ambassador, Senor Ontiveros, and a senior representative of the Spanish army, on behalf of General Franco. On the whole, however, partly no doubt because it took place during the most intense phase of the battle against Germany on the European mainland, the occasion passed by relatively quietly. Indeed, it was greeted largely with indifference even in Ireland, except amongst a few dozen of the departed hero's devoted followers.

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