The Emergency: Ireland in wartime, 27-28 June 2014
Film screening

The conference will incorporate a special screening of The Enigma of Frank Ryan. This public event (time and venue TBC) will be followed by an interactive discussion with Director, Writer and Producer, Prof. Desmond Bell, and historian Dr Fearghal McGarry.

For further information on the making of this film, please visit  and


Frank Ryan’s life (born Limerick 1902, died Dresden 1944) remains an enigma. The teenage IRA volunteer, dissident republican and Spanish International Brigade volunteer ended his life working for the Nazis in wartime Berlin. Ryan’s story continues to cast a dark spell over Irish political life, raising as it does questions about Ireland’s position in the second world war and the tainted record of the IRA. Our film employs the imaginative resources of the creative documentary to explore a human story of truly tragic proportions. From an apartment in war ravaged Berlin Ryan reflects on his life sharing his story with a young radio producer Hans Hartman. Hartman has a particular interest in matters Irish and hopes that Ryan will assist in broadcasting propaganda by the Nazis to Ireland.

Ryan had been smuggled out of a Spanish jail by German Military Intelligence in a deal with Franco. He was spirited to Berlin where it was hoped he would travel back to Ireland together with Sean Russell the head of the IRA. ‘Operation Dove’ aimed to conduct insurrectional activity against the British led by the IRA. “My enemy’s enemy is my friend” Ryan’s Nazi handler Veesenmayer declares quoting the old Republican adage. However, after the failed attempt to return to Ireland by U Boat Ryan becomes trapped  in Berlin and the relationship between  himself and Hartman and Veesenmeyer takes on a cat and mouse character.  As Ryan become more familiar with the Nazi state the contradiction between his political beliefs and  his  favoured status in Berlin comes to haunt him.