The Irish government has pardoned thousands of servicemen who deserted to fight for the Allied forces during World War Two after the Irish state decided to remain neutral in the war against Adolf Hitler’s Germany.
Ireland maintained its neutrality throughout the war, saying any other course would have threatened its independence, secured from Britain in 1921, and President Eamon DeValera signed a book of condolences on the death of Hitler in 1945.
About 60,000 people from the Irish state fought in the British Forces during the war, including some 7000 servicemen who deserted from the Irish armed forces.
The Irish government summarily dismissed all of those who deserted and disqualified them from state employment for seven years. Relatives say the deserters were stigmatised for decades.
“The government apologises for the manner in which those members of the defence forces who left to fight on the Allied side during World War Two were treated after the war by the state,” Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter said in an address to parliament.
“In the almost 73 years since the outbreak of World War II, our understanding of history has matured,” he said. “It is time for understanding and forgiveness.”
This should not have taken 73 years. I’d say our understanding of the evil nature of Hitler has been known for some time.
It is not widely known that Churchil offered Ireland a united island, if they agreed to allow British use of bases and ports. Think how many lives would have been saved if they had agreed – and Ireland would be one country today.
The offering condolences to Germany on the death of Hitler was a major blunder, which especially insulted the US – as no condolences were given to them on the death of Roosevelt.
Interestingly Ireland was not allowed into the UN until 1955, due to its neutrality. The country which kept vetoing its admission was the USSR!