85 years ago today, on September 26th 1938 the Handover of Fort Berehaven, Bere Island took place. At 12.00pm the Union Jack was lowered and at 12.01pm the Irish Tricolour was raised over the fort.
In 1922, under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the British withdrew from most of Ireland but kept the deep-water treaty ports, at Berehaven, Cork Harbour and Lough Swilly in order to protect their Atlantic convoys. The ports were handed back to the Irish Government in1938, the handover of Spike Island, Cork Harbour took place on July 11th, Berehaven on September 26th and Lough Swilly on October 3rd. Winston Churchill however, was appalled by the decision and in an address to Parliament that year he called it a ‘folly.’
An advance party from the Irish Army arrived on Bere Island on September 22nd. The actual handover was completed in a rush on September 26th; so much so, that most of the islanders didn’t know it was happening. However, as the British were loading their equipment on to boats to depart Bere Island, an order was received to stop loading and to halt the handover. The British ordered the Irish gunners out of the fort at Lonehort Battery and back to their billets in Rerrin. The Irish Government reacted speedily and insisted that the handover be completed by nightfall, thus ensuring that Ireland secured her neutrality and avoided becoming involved in World War Two.