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Following several years of tension the Second World War came about in September 1939 following Germanys invasion of Poland and war declared on them by Britain and France It was to become the most destructive war in history resulting in millions of deaths With so much of the fighting taking place in Europe it was to have a profound affect on each of the countries on the continent However the case of the Island of Ireland was to prove one of the most interesting Since 1921 the Island had been divided into the Dominion Free Sate and the six counties of Northern Ireland retained under the union As part of the United Kingdom Northern Ireland immediately entered the war on the British side From the beginning their Prime Minister Craig insisted the Unionists Wished to play their part stating in February 1940 We are the Kings men and we shall be with you till the end The Free State Government did not share his view As early as February 1939 De Valera had declared it was his intention to preserve our Neutrality in the event of war Therefore when war became a reality both Dil and Senate agreed for the Free State to remain Neutral and an Emergency Powers Act was passed giving the Government total power to secure public safety Neutrality could be considered proof of Independence and across the border too Craig was showing Unionist allegiance to Britain Robert Fisk identifies this in his book In Time of War Both parts of Ireland were seeking to define their opposing territorial status within the context of the greatest European conflict in modern times The Free States position was aided by the return of the Treaty Ports form Britain in 1938 Without this Neutrality would have been difficult if not impossible De Valera was to ignore repeated British calls for their use This stance served greatly to increase the importance of
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