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Irish priest who saved 6,500 lives is honoured

AN IRISH priest who is credited with saving the lives of over 6,500 people during World War II is to finally be recognised in his hometown – 50 years after his death.

Killarney in Co Kerry will unveil a life-size bronze statue to Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty (pictured) – who was known as the Vatican Pimpernel – on his anniversary on October 30.

A mammoth fundraising effort by the Hugh O'Flaherty Memorial Committee has raised almost €100,000 to cover the cost of commissioning the statue by sculptor Alan Ryan Hall, which will have a prominent town centre location next to a new pedestrian entrance to Killarney National Park.

Committee chairman Jerry O'Grady said the imposing structure captures the essence of the clergyman, who was six feet three inches in height.

Its unveiling will coincide two significant anniversaries; the monsignor's death on October 30 and his co-founding of the 'Rome Escape Line' with Lt Col Sam Derry 70 years ago this September.

Born in Kiskeam in Co Cork but raised in Killarney, O'Flaherty became known as the 'Scarlet Pimpernel of The Vatican' because of his exploits.

In 1983 a film about his life, 'The Scarlet and the Black' starring Gregory Peck, was shot.

After the war Msgr O'Flaherty received many decorations including Commander of the British Empire.

However, in his own country, he was accused of "breaching neutrality".

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