Aliens in wartime: reactions and responses to foreign nationalities and minorities in Ireland during the First World War
Buck, William J. E.
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Ireland was a diverse society made up of various nationalities and ethnic minorities before the twentieth century. Relationships and tensions have developed between these various ‘foreign’ groups and Ireland’s host nation over the centuries. However, these relationships were put under pressure with the start of the First World War. Emergency legislation introduced by the British Government at the start of the Great War and the public hysteria, often created by Britain’s right-wing press, politicians and the official propaganda network all helped to fuel the flames of anti-alien fervour in Britain. During the first two months of war the daily lives of Ireland’s ‘enemy aliens’ were hugely affected, with anti-German rioting in Dublin and the arrests and detention of hundreds of enemy aliens throughout Ireland. Foreign accents and names would be treated with great suspicion by the host nation, leading to innocent citizens being wrongfully arrested or attacked by their neighbours during the first month of the war. Even though the British government alien legislation affected Germans, Austrians and Hungarians, labelling them enemy aliens and restricting their freedoms and movement within Ireland, the phases of public hysteria and rioting that occurred in Britain during the four and a half years of war was not evident in Irish public opinion and their actions did not imitate their British counterparts. This study will examine the reasons behind the differing reactions in Ireland to enemy and friendly alien nationalities, especially Belgian refugees who were forced to seek refuge in Britain and Ireland due to the German invasion of Belgium, while also analysing how ethnic minorities like Ireland’s Jewish communities were affected by the British government’s wartime alien legislation. It will highlight the different alien individuals and professions that were targeted by Dublin Castle, the military and police authorities, while also emphasising the inconsistencies and communication problems that existed between the country’s decision-makers, when implementing the wartime legislation and the granting of travel and residence permits. By using the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers (CSORP), local and national newspapers and County Police Monthly Reports, this research will examine the treatment of aliens in Ireland during the First World War, by the British government, authorities in Ireland and the Irish people. The study will also examine the public generosity and sympathy towards enemy aliens from their Irish neighbours, as well as the frustrations and animosity felt by the Irish public towards friendly alien nationals residing in the country. In summary, the research to date portrays the various relations created and destroyed between Ireland’s alien residents and the host nation, as a result of the First World War.
KeywordsWorld War I
Ireland and World War I
Reactions to World War I
Language (ISO 639-3)eng
PublisherMary Immaculate College, University of Limerick
- History (Theses) 
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