Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland has welcomed comments by the Republic of Ireland’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter in which he indicated a willingness on the part of the Irish Government to consider the of granting issue pardons and apologies to the veterans and families of those men who left the Irish Army to enlist in the British Army and engage in the fight against fascism in World War II.
The East Belfast representative said;
“It was my privilege to speak in Monday’s Stormont debate on the issue of the shameful treatment of those brave men who in World War Two left the Irish Army and joined the British Army to fight fascism and defend democracy in Europe.
In Monday’s debate I highlighted the behaviour of De Valera to extend condolences to the German people on the death of Hitler, and also said that the treatment of those soldiers from the Republic who had fought so bravely against the Nazis, was a stain on the integrity of the Republic of Ireland and should be removed forthwith.
I was extremely heartened to learn that the Republic of Ireland’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said he regards the dishonourable discharge of soldiers who left to fight for the Allies as untenable and that “Many who fought in British uniforms during that war returned to Ireland. For too many years, their contribution in preserving European and Irish democracy was ignored.
“It is untenable that we commemorate those who died whilst continuing to ignore the manner in which our State treated the living, in the period immediately after World War II, who returned to our State having fought for freedom and democracy.”
Mr Shatter clearly shares the concerns of the Stormont Assembly and I particularly welcome his acknowledgement that “in the context of the Holocaust, Irish neutrality was a principle of moral bankruptcy” and that “ by the visit of President de Valera to then German ambassador Edouard Hempel in 1945 to express his condolences on the death of Hitler. At a time when neutrality should have ceased to be an issue the government . . . utterly lost its moral compass.”
Mr Copeland concluded;
“At last it would seem we are approaching a successful resolution to the campaign to recognise the bravery of those 4,983 Irishmen from the South who deserted from the Irish Defence Forces to join the Allies in the fight against the fascist tyranny which threatened to overwhelm Europe. It is too late to restore their pensions and compensate for their barring from a range of State employment on the basis of the Dail’s 1945 Emergency Powers Order, but it is not too late for the Republic’s Government to pardon, apologise and salute the memory of these brave men.”