I mentioned a couple of days ago the anti-semitism of "Two-Gun" Pat Belton, the politician and businessman.
Writing the day prior to that about Samuel Beckett, I didn't refer to his role as a witness on behalf of a Jewish cousin ny marriage, Henry Sinclair, who sued the writer Oliver St John Gogarty (of whom more when we get the the Gs), who had written some derogatory and anti-semitic lines which Sinclair claimed, successfully, referred to him. Beckett was roundly blackguarded by Gogarty's barrister, and accused of belonging to a "coterie of bawds and blasphemers". This was in 1937. In 1953, a civil servant at the Department of Justice named Peter Berry responded to a request by Robert Briscoe, a Jewish senior member of the governing party, 1916 combatant and future Lord Mayor of Dublin, that Ireland admit 10 Jewish refugee families from continental Europe. In his memorandum, Berry wrote:
In the administration of the alien laws it has always been recognized ... that the question of admission of aliens of Jewish blood presents a special problem and the alien laws have been administered less liberally in their case ... there is a fairly strong anti-Semitic feeling throughout the country based, perhaps, on historical reasons, the fact that the Jews have remained a separate community within the community and have not permitted themselves to be assimilated, and that for their numbers they appear to have disproportionate wealth and influence. [emphasis added]
Berry also referred to our old friend "international Jewry" using money to obtain preferential treatment of Jewish refugees. In fact, the cabinet, to which the memorandum was submitted, overruled Berry and decided that 5 of the 10 families should be admitted. Berry - who also owned up to pursuing a "go-slow policy" in dealing with Jewish refugee applications - showed a civil servant mentality typical of his peers in many countries before, during and after the Second World War, including the USA, UK and France. And this unquestionably ugly stuff should not diminish the fact that I'm writing about him today because he ended up a hero in one of the biggest Irish political scandals following independence.
The DIB's Partrick Maume does a very nice balancing act on Berry, giving space to the significant arguments for both positive and negative assessments. Maume quotes another Irish maverick (and hardly a fan), Noel Browne on Berry: "a main of obsessional type, preoccupied with the minutiae of his job, but a man of extraordinary dedication in his way to what he felt were the best interests of his job." Damned a little with faint praise, but praiseworthy still, up to a point.