Shatter apologises to our WW2 soldiers
THOUSANDS of Irish soldiers who were labelled traitors for deserting to join the British Army during World War Two are going to get an official state pardon.
Most of the soldiers who fought the Nazis have since died and the estimated 100 still alive are in their 90s.
But the apology by Justice Minister Alan Shatter in the Dail yesterday for the way the deserters were treated was warmly welcomed by the soldiers' relatives as a way of reducing the stigma about what they did.
Paddy Reilly (62) said his father, who died many years ago, had been persecuted for leaving the Defence Forces to join the British Army during World War Two.
"My dad was one of those who thought it was the right thing to do. He never complained about it but I don't think he expected to be ostracised," he said.
Former Taoiseach Eamon de Valera's Government passed an emergency order in 1945 to to ban 4,500 British soldiers from state employment for seven years.
But a former Dublin Bus driver, Peter Mulvany, began a campaign last year to get them pardoned after reading an article by Irish Independent columnist Kevin Myers.
"For me the campaign is over. It was a wise and compassionate decision and I'm very happy," he said.
Dubliner Paddy Reid, who served in Burma with the British Royal Artillery during World War Two, was branded a traitor on his return to Ireland.
His son, also named Paddy, said his father was unable to get a job on his return to Ireland, aged just 22.
"He was verbally abused and called a traitor. I think the impact was quite severe at first. Over the years he learned to deal with it.
Mr Reid died at the age of 64 in 1987.
"He went to his grave feeling it wasn't okay," Mr Reid said.
"I'm happy this is happening. It took a long time. I'm happy that we're mature enough of a society to see through it all."