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Vatican's 'Scarlet Pimpernel' honoured

AN IRISH priest credited with saving the lives of more than 6,500 people during World War Two will finally be recognised by the State -- 50 years after his death.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said it was time Hugh O'Flaherty and other "humanitarian heroes" were in the public record as well as the national consciousness.

He was speaking at an event in Killarney at the weekend to commemorate Monsignor O'Flaherty, where Sr Agnes Hunt of the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas was announced as the winner of the Hugh O'Flaherty International Humanitarian Award.

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

He is credited with saving the lives of over 6,500 Jews and American and British soldiers by hiding them in a number of safe houses all over Rome.

Together with British escapee Lt Col Sam Derry he set up an organisation known as 'The Rome Escape Line', an organisation that provided food and supplies before ultimately bringing them to safety.

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

After the war Monsignor O'Flaherty received many decorations including Commander of the British Empire and the US Medal of Freedom.

Former Supreme Court judge, Mr Justice Hugh O'Flaherty, a nephew of the monsignor's, said he never spoke about his exploits during the war. "He was a genuinely very modest man," he said.

Irish Independent