Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Crossmaglen's Nazi sculptor

Recently there has been some controversy about an application for public funding for the refurbishment of an IRA memorial in the centre of Crossmaglen.  The application by the Crossmaglen Memorial and Heritage Committee has certainly drawn attention to the memorial and the memorial sculpture provides an interesting insight into the IRA.

The sculpture was erected in the town square in Crossmaglen in 1979 and was the work of a sculptor named Yann Renard-Goulet (1914-1999), who was born in Brittany in France. 

Goulet was a passionate Breton nationalist and a sculptor.  Before the 2nd World War he was a member of the Breton National Party (Parti National Breton PNB), which modelled itself on Sinn Fein, and during the war he joined the assault section of Bagadou Stourm, Breton nationalist stormtroopers who were allied to the Nazis.  He also collaborated with the pro-Nazi nationalist newspaper L'Heure Bretonne and in 1941 in Paris, he became head of Bagadou Stourm.

After the liberation of France by the Allies, Goulet left with his wife and two children in 1947 and they travelled to Eire on false passports.  However he was tried in France in his absence on charges of collaboration with the Nazis and was found guilty.  Goulet was one of a number of Nazi collaborators who were welcomed by the authorities in Eire and so he was able to escape the death sentence.  He acquired Irish citizenship in 1952 and eventually he was appointed professor of sculpture at the Royal Hibernian Academy.  Goulet was also made a member of the prestigious arts organisation Aosdana in 1983.  The Nazi collaborator was now a member of the cultural establishment in the Irish Republic.

Goulet was a political activist, both as a Breton separatist and an Irish nationalist, and he was commissioned to create public works commemorating the IRA and other republicans.  These included the Custom House memorial in Dublin (1956), the Ballyseedy memorial in Tralee (1959) and the East Mayo IRA Brigade memorial (1972).

Towards the end of the 1960s Goulet claimed to have taken over the reins of the Liberation Front of Brittany (Front de Liberation de la Bretagne FLB), which was founded in 1965,  and to have been behind all their terrorist attacks.  In 1969 he became secretary general and chair of the Comite National de la Bretagne Libre and published the communiques of the FLB.

Yann Goulet became an ardent republicans and at the start of the Troubles in 1969 he sent a message of support for a United Ireland to the IRA.  He also befriended Ruairi O Bradaigh, president of Sinn Fein and spoke at several Sinn Fein conferences.

In 1972 Goulet took on an even more important and deadly role for the IRA.  At that time the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi made contact with the Provisonal IRA through Yann Goulet and the purpose of the approach was to offer the IRA arms and explosives.  Nothing came of that initial contact but contact was re-established, again through Goulet, and an arrangment was made for Joe Cahill to travel to Tripoli.  Goulet was therefore a key figure in the establishment of the biggest source of weaponry for IRA terrorists.

Goulet was the central figure in a rather bizarre includent in 1981 when he travelled to Belfast at the request of O Bradaigh, to make a death mask of the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands but the project was turned down by the local Belfast IRA leadership.  His last major commission also had an IRA connection and it was for an IRA memorial for Milltown cemetery in West Belfast.  However it was never completed because of illness and Yann Goulet died on 22 August 1999, two days after his 85th birthday.

On 9 September An Phoblacht, the newspaper of Sinn Fein and the IRA, published an obituary.  The memorial in Crossmaglen is entitled Glory and according to the An Phoblacht obituary it was erected 'in dead of night as a defiant surprise for the occupying forces!'

Sinn Fein try to portray themselves as radical and progressive but they seem to have had no difficulty with inviting a Nazi collaborator on to their platforms or in employing the same Nazi collaborator to produce their Crossmaglen sculpture.  Of course, why would they have a problem with Goulet?  During the 2nd World War the IRA themselves collaborated with the Nazis.

Goulet was just one of a number of Nazi collaborators who found a home in Eire and became prominent figures there. This is something the Irish Republic probably prefers to forget and indeed Goulet's biography on the Aosdana website and his entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography are sanitised.  The DIB entry by Bridget Hourican largely ignores his role as a Nazi collaborator and totally ignores his role in the arming of the Provisional IRA by Colonel Gaddafi.

Instead of being a symbol of Glory, the Crossmaglen statue is really a symbol of shame.

7 comments:

  1. Many separatists aligned themselves to the Nazi occupation - there are statues and memorials to them throughout the European Union.

    One man's villain or traitor is somebody else's patriot. Being a Nazi collaborateur in France, was not by necessity the end of a career.

    For example Maurice Papon helped to solve the Jewish question, the way the Nazis wanted it solved, finally & etc. He also presided over the Paris massacre of 1961.

    Papon was Minister of the Budget under Prime Minister Raymond Barre and President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. It was not until the 1990s, he was held to account for crimes against humanity.

    Yann Goulet had to go into exile, and like thousands of pro-Nazis and war criminals, he was not exactly being hunted, nor for that matter was Maurice Papon, who would serve France in Algeria as a police official and torturer.

    Plenty of Nazis were protected by Britain, the Irish were sympathetic to Breton patriots and vice versa. Yann Goulet is not obviously a pariah in Bretagne.

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    1. I find it incredible that so many people go to such lengths to contextualise and almost excuse collaboration with the Nazis. The IRA collaborated with the Nazis, Eire remained neutral in the war, and after the war a number of Nazi collaborators found a safe haven and a prominent place in society in Eire. Some journalists such as Eoghan Harris have turned the spotlight on these matters but more needs to be done.

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  2. Your obsession with the 'the IRA and Nazis link' really is becoming tiresome Nelson.

    Not a word mentioned on your 'personal blog' about a certain HRH Duke of Windsor (formally King Edward VIII) singing the praises of a "great man" known as Adolf Hitler. Does that make HIM a Nazi collaborator?

    On the flipside, there is the wonderful Bob Hope's quote when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon (words to the effect of) "this proves that our German scientists are better than the Russian German scientists".

    Does that make every NASA-related person (including American Presidents) Nazi collaborators?

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  3. Can I suggest that if you find it tiresome you don't bother to read it! I'm not forcing you!

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  4. I always find your blog interesting Nelson, regardless of your Unionist point of view....

    However, why do U find it strange that Irish Republicans sought help from Nazi Collaboraters and/or supporters? After all, they needed International help to defeat what they seen to end what we belive was an illegal occupation by Britain of Ireland...Just as Britain has always needed American help to fight wars across the world...The bottom line being that help doesn't neccessarily mean that the IRA supported the Nazis objectives but were prepared to use them for their own advantage...

    Yes, the Nazis were involved in genocide which was totally wrong and unjustified and they were rightly defeated. So, how come you can support Israeli aggression and genocide against the Palestian people or better still British genocide against the Irish?

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  5. You acknowledge that the Nazis committed genocide and that the IRA collaborated with them. In that regard you confirm much of what I have said.

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  6. Well as the old saying goes "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity", you can easily replace England and Ireland with France and Brittany respectively or any small nation seeking independence from a larger one. Don't take it as a testament of their love for the Nazis, take it as a greater dislike of their occupiers

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