Families of deserted soldiers welcome pardon moves

Thu, Jan 26, 2012, 00:00

RELATIVES OF soldiers who deserted the Irish Army to fight for the Allies in the second World War have welcomed moves by Minister for Defence Alan Shatter to pardon those involved.

Paddy Reid, whose father and uncle were among those who left the Defence Forces to fight in the British army during the war, expressed his delight at Mr Shatter’s approach.

“I am really happy that the Minister is going to act on the matter and all of those who played their party in fighting fascism are finally going to get a pardon.”

Mr Reid said while most of those involved were no longer alive, the pardon was very important for their families. “Not only will it recognise what they did, it will also be a consolation to their families who suffered hardship as a result of their actions.”

Mr Reid said his father Paddy was not able to get work when he returned to Dublin in 1946 and was unemployed for the following 15 years as a direct result of his involvement in the war.

“My father fought against the Japanese at the battle of Kohima in India, which was regarded as the turning point of the war in the east. His unit was cut off for a week and his memories of that event and the piles of Japanese dead around his position stayed with him all his life.

“Yet when he came home, he was told ‘we don’t want you here’. The fight against fascism meant nothing to those who regarded things through purely nationalist eyes.”

Mr Reid said the consequences of his father’s treatment were felt by his mother and the rest of the family, who endured poverty during the 1950s. “The psychological effects of that treatment stayed with us for a long time.”

Patrick Martin, whose grandfather Phil Farrington (91) is still alive, said he was really glad the pardons campaign was picking up pace.

Mr Farrington took part in the D-Day landings and helped to liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Over the years, he suffered from nightmares that he would be arrested by the Irish authorities and imprisoned for deserting the Irish Army to fight for the Allies.

During the second World War, 4,983 people deserted from the Defence Forces to join the Allied armies fighting Germany and Japan.

Those who returned to Ireland were refused military pensions and were debarred from a range of State employment on the basis of an Emergency Powers Order passed by the Dáil in 1945.