"The Familiar Style of Decaying Colonial Powers": Irish National Newspapers and Portugal's Colonial Wars, 1961-1974

By Mercereau, Jean N. F. | Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies, Annual 2016 | Go to article overview

"The Familiar Style of Decaying Colonial Powers": Irish National Newspapers and Portugal's Colonial Wars, 1961-1974


Mercereau, Jean N. F., Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies


Salazar's Estado Novo dictatorial regime in Portugal was the object of particular attention in many European countries, especially in its early stage, between the new Constitution of 1933 and the end of World War II in 1945. In Ireland, Salazar's early recipes were then widely considered as a potential panacea that had allegedly contributed to putting the country back on track after years of political and economic crisis following the demise of the Republic in 1926. On 4 December 1941, at a time when both Ireland and Portugal were maintaining their neutrality during World War II, and as Dublin was about to open its first diplomatic representation in Lisbon (2) (Meneses 2005: 16), Eamon de Valera, then Taoiseach for almost a decade, made the following statement in the Dail (Irish Parliament):

   Portugal is a neighbouring country. In certain
   respects, her geographical situation and her
   attitude in relation to the present conflict are
   similar to our own and, no doubt, the problems
   which confront the two countries, particularly at
   the present time, have also many points of
   resemblance. We have all heard of the great
   advance which Portugal has made under the
   leadership of her present Premier, Dr. Salazar.
   The progressive and Christian manner in which
   the Portuguese Government is handling its
   economic and other domestic problems has
   attracted attention and admiration throughout
   the world and not least, I think, in this country. (3)

With these words, de Valera was not so much reaffirming his own respect and admiration for the Portuguese leader, with whom he shared many characteristics (Meneses 2009: 354), as echoing the general praise of Salazar's handling of Portugal and of the alleged "Christian manner" of the Estado Novo expressed in Irish nationalist newspapers throughout the 1930s (Mercereau 2013: 144, 145). However, from the mid-1940s onwards, Ireland gradually lost interest in the Portuguese situation to such an extent that, when Portugal's colonial wars eventually broke out in the early 1960s, de Valera's Ireland and Salazar's Portugal, despite their numerous common characteristics, had been drifting apart for over a decade and were left with very little in common. More importantly, Portugal's determination to cling to its colonies went against what Ireland largely stood for since it had become a member of the United Nations in 1955, and would remain at the heart of growingly irreconcilable differences between both countries through the following decade.

This article, which is part of a wider research project about Ireland's views on Salazar's Estado Novo dictatorship in Portugal (1928-1974), focuses on the later years of the dictatorship. Although there have been studies comparing the Portuguese Estado Novo in the 1930s with other European countries then governed by dictatorial regimes (particularly Franco's Spain, Hitler's Germany or Mussolini's Italy), few studies have focused on the relationship between Ireland and Portugal throughout the four decades of Salazar's reign, with the notable exception of Filipe Ribeiro de Meneses's Correspondencia Diplomatica Irlandesa sobre Portugal, o Estado Novo e Salazar in 2005.

The main objective of the present article is not to review Ireland's external policy throughout the 1960s but to analyse how Ireland's main national newspapers presented Portugal's Estado Novo regime in Portugal between the early 1960s and the fall of the regime in 1974, particularly as far as its colonial policy is concerned. With that goal in mind, it consists in trying to determine to what extent their representation of the nature of the regime, and particularly its colonial policy, is biased by their own identities and positions amid the Irish political debate. In order to do so, while all articles with significant reference to Portugal's regime published by Ireland's three main national newspapers, (4) the Irish Press, Irish Independent and Irish Times, have been considered, special interest has been given to the newspapers' editorials as indication of each title's own commitment and opinion. …

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