Sinn Fein councillor Tom Hartley is reported in the Belfast Telegraph (4 May) as saying: 'The restoration of the Blitz plot at Milltown Cemetery by the NI War Memorial is a reminder of the terrible loss of over a thousand Belfast citizens in April and May 1941.'
It is right that we remember the loss of life inflicted by German bombers on the city of Belfast but there is one aspect of the German attacks that is often overlooked, especially by Irish republicans, and that is the way in which the IRA assisted the Nazis in carrying out that terrible onslaught.
The Luftwaffe returned on the night of Easter Tuesday 15 April and 180 German bombers dropped 203 metric tons of bombs and 800 firebomb canisters on Belfast. The bombing continued until 5 am in the morning and the north of the city suffered most. At least 900 people were killed, around 1,500 were injured and fifty-five thousand homes were damaged. No other city in the United Kingdom, except London, lost so many lives in one air raid. The same night two parachute bombs were dropped on Londonderry and they killed fifteen people, while five people were killed in Newtownards when the Germans bombed the airport.
There was another attack on the night of Sunday 4 May and 200 German bombers attacked the city over three and a half hours, dropping 95,992 incendiaries and 207 metric tons of explosives. On that night the docks area and the city centre were hit hardest and 191 people were killed. Two thirds of Harland & Wolff’s premises were destroyed and four ships were sunk in the harbour. By this time more than half of the houses in Belfast were destroyed or badly damaged and Belfast was headline news in the German newspapers.
The final German attack came on the next night, 5 and 6 May, when three German bombers attacked east Belfast and fourteen people were killed in Ravenscroft Avenue.
McAughtry said that at the time of the confession the former IRA man was elderly and refused to be identified for fear of reprisals. Nevertheless there is no reason to doubt his testimony.
Other documents seized by the Eire police early in 1942 were deciphered the following year and revealed attempts by the IRA Northern Command to pass on to the Nazis information about ‘the arrival of Americans at Derry’ and the ‘construction by the Eire authorities of an aerodrome at Limerick’.
Throughout the 2nd World War the IRA collaborated with the Nazis and their assistance for the Luftwaffe was part of that collaboration. Perhaps in future when members of Sinn Fein speak about the war and about the Blitz they will acknowledge that there was collusion and collaboration between Irish republicanism and German fascism.