Tuesday 15 October 2019

'It's come too late for my father and mother'

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

FOR Paddy Reid, the satisfaction of getting a state apology for the treatment meted out to his father was a "bittersweet moment".

He knows that it will help the families of those troops who deserted from the Defence Forces during World War Two to join the British Army.

But he expressed regret that neither his father, Paddy Snr, or his mother were alive to hear it.

"It's come too late for my father and mother but I'm glad it happened," he said.

His father, Paddy, joined the Defence Forces in 1939 but deserted in 1942 to join the British Army.

He ended up fighting the Japanese with the Royal Artillery in the jungles of Burma.

He was branded a traitor on his return to Ireland and he was unable to get a job – Eamon de Valera's government passed an emergency order barring such men from state employment for seven years.

"They certainly suffered. My mother took the brunt of it," Mr Reid said.

He described how his father had to scour the countryside working in the black economy for farmers, picking turnips and other such tasks.

The money he earned was not enough to feed his family properly or keep them in a decent home – so they ended up moving from one slum area to another.

His father learned to deal with the verbal abuse over the years. However, he went to his grave in 1987 at the age of 64 unhappy with how he had been treated.

Mr Reid is glad that the State has now apologised to his late father and others like him – but believes it is a shame that it took 68 years for it to happen.

"All of those 5,000 men, bar five of them, are dead now. It's kind of a bittersweet moment," he said.

Irish Independent

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