Friday 24 November 2017

Eire’s beer export ban

The position of the Republic of Ireland was a weird one. It was neutral but, due to its proximity to the UK, couldn’t avoid the impact of the war.

On the one hand, international maritime trade was severely, making it hard to import raw materials or food. On the other, the UK was easily Ireland’s biggest trading partner. Exports to the UK were hugely important for the country’s finances. There’s one pretty obvious Irish export to Britain: Guinness.

While selling Guinness to the UK might have been important financially, it couldn’t come at the expense of Ireland starving. Or going thirsty. A shortage of grain at the end of 1943 prompted the Irish government to ban all beer exports:

Dublin-brewed stout and porter will shortly be unobtainable in Northern Ireland, Scotland  and the North of England  Eire, faced with the need for self-sufficiency in wheat production, will have only enough barley from the present crop for brewing for home consumption, and exports have been banned.”
The Scotsman - Saturday 30 October 1943, page 6. 

While the drying up of Guinness would be annoying in England and Scotland, it was a far more serious matter in Northern Ireland, which was far more dependent on supplies from Dublin. So serious, that it threatened to close most of the region’s pubs.

Ulster Public-Houses May Close
The ban on the export of Guinness's stout from Eire may result in the closing of most of the public-houses in Northern Ireland, which have already suffered badly from the shortage of whisky and wines.

Mr. M. O'Kane, secretary of the Licensed Vintners' Association, said on Saturday that the small traders, who constituted 50 per cent, or more of the trade, would be hit particularly hard, and the posts of a large number of barmen would be placed in jeopardy.

Speaking of the possibility of increased supplies of beer coming from England, he pointed out that most Irishmen disliked beer, or, at least, preferred Guinness’s porter.

The Ministry of Commerce has denied that it has asked the Ministry of Food to release cereals for export to Eire so that more porter can be produced.”
Belfast News-Letter - Monday 01 November 1943, page 5.

Most Irishmen dislike beer? What an odd thing to say. He really means that they preferred Beer to Ale. Because as we all know, Porter and Stout are Beers.

I think the last paragraph explains what was really going on here. The Irish government wanted to get more grain from the UK. To pressurise the British, they threatened to cut off beer supplies, which they knew would cause unrest in Northern Ireland. It certainly got the workers riled up.

Workers want Guinness
FOLLOWING the ban the export of stout and porter from Eire, Belfast workers have appealed to their unions to urge the Government take action to ease the situation. They contend that they have to shoulder heavier burden than workers in England, who still have ample supplies of beer.

Ulster licensees, who meet to-day discuss the situation, visualise a "dry" Ulster in which most public-houses will have to close.

As a result of the ban 220 temporary Guinness employees have been paid off in Dublin.”
Northern Whig - Monday 01 November 1943, page 3.

Irish pressure was clearly starting to have at effect:

M.P. Suggests Manufacture in Ulster
In the Northern Ireland House of Commons yesterday Mr. Henderson (Ind., Shankill) referred again to the ban on the export Guinness's stout and beer from Eire. He asked the Prime Minister if it would not be possible to secure imports from Great Britain or to make an effort to arrange for manufacture in Northern Ireland so that workers could not held to ransom "every time it suits certain people.” Many small publicans would have to close if something was not done.

Mr. Fred Thompson (U., Ballynafeigh) pointed out that many small traders - grocers, hardware merchants, and drapers - had been compelled to close their shops because they could not get supplies of goods.

Sir Basil Brooke, the Prime Minister, replied that he was not in a position to say whether anything could be done in regard to Guinness supplies, but immediately he was in a position to say anything he would do so.”
Belfast News-Letter - Wednesday 10 November 1943, page 5.

Would this political pressure have an effect? We’ll see.


The Beer Nut said...

Sometimes I wish the English language had a proper nominative, genitive and dative case, and diacritics, so we wouldn't have to put up with this "Eire" nonsense from the English people. Also "the Irish Republic" is incorrect for the time period and perspective here, and yes I know the BBC still uses it, just to annoy me.

Lambicman said...

I can't understand why people in the UK use the term "Eire". That is the name of my country in the Irish language. They don't refer to Germany as Deutschland, they call in Germany, using the English language.

Maybe there is a political reason?

Even in 2017, my wife's cousins put "Eire" in the address when writing to us.

Phil said...

"he pointed out that most Irishmen disliked beer" - there's an out-of-context quote for the ages.

AIUI the name of the state is the Republic of Ireland, or "Ireland" for short (not "Irish Republic"). The British press were in the habit of calling it "Eire" for a long time, but that's only really appropriate if you're writing in Irish - in English, the word is "Ireland".

Ed said...

Oooo...another cliff hanger. Haven't had one of those for a while.

Anonymous said...

The campaign was successful. When George Orwell moved to Jura after the war, he contacted a distillery to see if he could buy some whisky. The reply pointed out that there was no whisky at that time, or for the foreseeable future, as the UK government had authorized the shipment of thousands of tons of malting barley to "NEUTRAL EIRE" (capitals in the original). The machinations that led a Labour UK government to undermine a domestic industry in favour of a business run by a Tory dynasty would make interesting reading.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut,

I only used the term Eire as a quote.

I'll admit to entering this not quite knowing what the right term was for the name of the Irish independent state. Being slightly hesitant, but also too lazy to look the fucker up properly.

Republic of Ireland it is then.

I will point out that I regularly call the United Kingdom "Britain" and The Netherlands "Holland".

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut,

unfortunately English abandoned its glorious cases after those French fuckers took over. I'm a devil for inflection myself.

Interesting story about the exports, nation-naming semantics aside.

The Beer Nut said...

Well it depends on where you're standing in 1943. The 1937 Constitution declared a country called Ireland but it was 1949 before that was harmonised in UK law, and the "official description" as "the Republic of Ireland" was recognised. In the UK from 1922 to 1949 you're looking over at the Irish Free State.

And yes, it's fascinating. I knew about the Economic War in the 1930s, which led to the creation of Park Royal, but had no idea of the goings-on during The Emergency.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

Yes,being an Englishman living in Ireland you have to choose your words with some care.
For instance,rather like the N-word in the States the use of the word Paddy to describe Irish people is apparently only acceptable if it is used by Irish people.
And you'd be amazed how easy it is to wind up an entire pub by deliberately using the word mainland to describe Britain.
Sadly my pals in the pub are used to my cunning machinations by now.
And have even taken to apologising for describing the Brits as Tans.
Fortunately Brexit has yielded a whole new cornucopia of subjects on which to induce rage amongst them.
Happy days.