Ireland and the decolonisation of Africa
This chapter outlines the key role played by decolonisation, the ends of empire, and the emergence of independent Africa in shaping Ireland's post-war identity. Missionary links fostered an interest in, and a sense of responsibility towards, Africa, and connected Irish actions with African nationalist aspirations. An official emphasis on the shared legacies of empire created a self-defined post-colonial identity for the state. This chapter links these nation-level currents of debate with an evolving international narrative in which circumstances allowed the ‘fire brigade’ states a disproportionately forward role in international politics. It shows how involvement in debates on African decolonisation at the UN allowed those states to marry national values with the assertion of diplomatic independence. It identifies an important shift between the imperial and post-imperial eras: as Africa's political status changed, the ‘fire brigade’ states adapted accordingly, not least by re-directing their focus to the field of foreign aid. In the midst of those changes this chapter explores a theme that is at the heart of this book: the marriage of idealism, pragmatism, national concerns and international trends that shaped small state identities in the Cold War.
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