herald

Monday 16 September 2019

UFOs and Churchill's horse in official papers

UFO
UFO

Flying Saucer reports and Winston Churchill's hopes of bringing his horse to Ireland to run in the Derby are in a newly published volume of documents on Irish foreign policy.

The latest volume covers the work of Irish diplomats in the 1948-51 period when the first Inter-Party government was formed under Taoiseach John A Costello and the Irish Free State left the Commonwealth to become a republic.

Intense interest in reported UFO sightings in the skies over the US in 1950 prompted the Irish embassy in Washington to send a report to Dublin.

An embassy staffer, while saying he was making no commitment as to whether he believed such flying saucer reports, asked that his report "be sent to G2, Irish military intelligence".

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan thanked the editorial team involved in compiling the documents for "a gripping read".

bitterness

In 1948, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill told Ireland's ambassador at a Remembrance Day ceremony in London of his hopes for a united Ireland.

"I still hope for a united Ireland. You must get those fellows from the north in, though you can't do it by force. There is not, and never was, any bitterness in my heart towards your country," he said.

Churchill, who spent four years in Dublin as a child when his grandfather was viceroy, had hoped to visit Ireland in 1951 as his horse, Canyon Kid, was to run in the Irish Derby, but the horse died of heart failure.

"I would have liked to have gone over and I'm sure the people would have given me a good reception - particularly if my horse had won. The Irish are a sporting people," Churchill said.

Mr Flanagan said the document collection showed Irish foreign policy was strongly influenced by Catholicism. In the first days of the Inter-Party government, a "message of filial piety" was sent to the Pope.

Documents show this extended to interfering in Italy's elections.

"We see Ireland's ambassador to the Holy See, Joseph Walshe, petitioning MacBride to divert Secret Service monies to help the Christian Democrats defeat the Communists in the 1948 Italian general election," Mr Flanagan remarked.

The publication of old foreign policy documents is a project of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Irish Academy and the National Archives.

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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