Wednesday 16 October 2019

Heroes must be recognised

Madam – The amnesty and apology for Irish army deserters who fought the Nazis is welcome, if long overdue. These men deserve more than forgiveness.

They deserve the heartfelt thanks of every person on this island, for the regime they fought against was one of the vilest and most oppressive in human history.

It is a stain on this country's honour that men who risked their lives in a struggle to defend us all from a new Dark Age of genocidal savagery should return to our shores, not as the heroes they were, but to be shunned, misunderstood, ostracised, or barred from employment. Yes, we were neutral during the Second World War, and yes, it was an offence to desert from the army and the penalties for that offence were enshrined in law.

But it wasn't just those who technically acted in breach of army regulations who received the cold shoulder. There was no proverbial welcome on the mat either for many thousands of others who opted to enlist, quite legally, in the armed forces of the "old enemy" to fight a far more pernicious one.

Given the nature of the enemy they faced, and the appalling inevitable consequences of a Nazi triumph, it is all the more baffling that it has taken almost 70 years to lift the unjust and unwarranted stigma from those honourable Irishmen.

John Fitzgerald,

Callan, Co Kilkenny

Irish Independent

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