home Features The History of Foreign Answers to Irish Questions

The History of Foreign Answers to Irish Questions

If you were on Twitter, or any social media platform really, at all in the last few days then it was hard to miss #TwoWomenTravel, a hashtag that trended in both Ireland & the UK. It was started by an account of the same name which followed the journey of a woman who, accompanied by a friend, traveled from Ireland to the UK to have an abortion. Regardless of your opinions on the Eighth Amendment, the account details a journey that thousands of Irish people make every year. The popularity of the account (and hashtag) brought people out of the woodwork on all sides of the ‘8th Debate,’ making it almost impossible to see anything unrelated in your feed (or mine, anyway), but also making it more possible to see viewpoints & opinions one mightn’t normally see. One of these was a consistent claim by people like Cora Sherlock (Pro-Life Campaign) that Pro-Choice campaigns in Ireland were being funded (and in some instances, organised by) American groups & billionaires, with the focus this time being on George Soros’ apparent funding of several groups in Ireland to support their campaign to repeal the eighth amendment. What was news to me (not that I was privy to anything about Soros or that stuff) wasn’t that there might be money coming from abroad to influence Ireland’s future, but that so many people were outraged; like this was something new.

You can go back to the beginning of history, and the only time a foreign entity didn’t really influence Ireland was during the Roman Empire, though some historians like Strabo did write some interesting things about Irish people at the time. I don’t think I need mention the impact of the British Empire on culture, society, infrastructure, language, the list goes on; the British influences in Ireland could only be matched by the Vatican’s hold on Ireland, with around 90% of schools today being ran & operated under the patronage of the Catholic Church. Foreign influence isn’t limited to social history of time long-passed, with Spanish & French involvement playing a key role in events like the Battle of Kinsale & the Wolfe Tone Rebellion respectively. Though, to be fair, many of these events happened before there was an America, never mind getting money & aid from Americans; indeed, one could make an argument that many of these things happened before there was an Ireland.

Most people likely know about the doomed voyage of the Aud, a German boat which was carrying arms & supplies to aid what we now know as the Easter Rising was caught and scuttled in Cork Harbour, and various other German efforts to help the Irish political cause. The most blatantly relevant instance of foreign support would be Eamon de Valera’s fundraising campaign in the United States at the foundation of our state in the 1920s. Dev, a US citizen, campaigned & fundraised his way through the United States, raising a total of $5,500,000 (modern equivalent approx. $66m) : $500,000 of this was set aside for the 1920 US Presidential Campaign, though it’s currently unknown how this money was actually spent; $20,000 was given as a loan to the RSFSR (also/later known as the USSR), with the crown jewels of the deposed Royal Family kept as collateral and the rest, presumably, was spent on the running of the then-Irish Republic. American funding lines the foundations of the modern Irish state.

Following the Second World War Ireland, like many countries in Europe, received money from the US Government through the Marshall Plan, with Ireland getting a total of approx $146m in the form of loans & grants which went to improving farming & general infrastructure in Ireland. The Marshall Plan was, in contrast to the previous fundraising in the 20s, non-partisan: the money went directly from one government to another, and was not given for any particular cause or reason. The Marshall Plan stood out among things like Dev’s venture and Clan na Gael efforts of the time in that regard.

In the spirit of Clan na Gael, groups like NORAID raised funds in North America to further the establishment of a democratic 32-county Ireland. Over the years many have claimed the money raised by NORAID throughout the 70s & 80s went towards the funding of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and other paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland. To people who believed this, NORAID was a foreign entity directly interfering with the stability of the Northern Irish state, which would have obvious knock-on effects for the Republic.

There have been suspicions of Northern American organisations propping up Irish equivalents when it comes to the various abortion campaigns, though little proof exists. What is undeniable is the influence of the US Supreme Court case of ‘Roe v Wade’ being the impetus for the 1983 referendum that introduced the 8th Amendment into Bunreacht na hÉireann in the first place. Obviously, Amnesty International have been in receipt of grants from a foundation funded by Mr.Soros, but the pro-Life side are not without implications in this regard: the aforementioned Cora Sherlock has in the past admitted that the Pro-Life Campaign was in receipt of small, individual donations from abroad. Fellow anti-abortion organisations Youth Defence & the Life Institute have, in the past, fallen afoul of the Standards in Public Office Commission (commonly referred to as ‘SIPO’) for refusing to release details of their donations to the government. An American group, called Life House Ireland, openly fund “vital projects and research” in Ireland with money collected from Americans.

American money funding Irish political & social lives and campaigns is nothing new, nor is any similar influence given from Europe. From pre-hibernian society to the foundations of the state to two days ago, Ireland has imported help and exported problems; what’s new is how we react.