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July Document of the Month

Irish humanitarian aid to postwar Europe after 1945

After the Second World War, the Irish government followed the example of other neutral states such as Sweden and Switzerland and established humanitarian aid programmes to provide food, material and medical supplies across postwar Europe. The Irish Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations also distributed aid donated by members of the Irish public. Irish relief supplies were distributed in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Romania and Yugloslavia.

Having been neutral in the war, Ireland did not discriminate in the distribution of aid. The devastation of the war caused unprecedented economic, political and social disruption, with millions of people displaced across the continent and widespread shortages of food and essential supplies. Criticisms that Ireland was providing aid to the defeated Axis powers as well as their victims faded as the Allies recognized the scale of the international humanitarian crisis facing Europe in the immediate postwar years.

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Aid distribution in post-war France, with Seán Murphy, Ireland’s minister plenipotentiary to France (a senior diplomatic rank just below that of ambassador) taking a hands-on role.

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An unidentified but nonetheless delighted Italian girl with a packet of Irish sugar distributed as food aid in Italy in 1946.

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This photograph shows Irish aid being delivered in postwar Albania under the auspices of the Albanian Red Cross.

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