The Irish government on Tuesday pardoned thousands of servicemen who deserted to fight for the Allied forces during World War Two after the Irish state decided to remain neutral in the war against Adolf Hitler’s Germany.
Ireland maintained its neutrality throughout the war, saying any other course would have threatened its independence, secured from Britain in 1921, and President Eamon DeValera signed a book of condolences on the death of Hitler in 1945.
About 60,000 people from the Irish state fought in the British Forces during the war, including some 7,000 servicemen who deserted from the Irish armed forces.
The Irish government summarily dismissed all of those who deserted and disqualified them from state employment for seven years. Relatives say the deserters were stigmatized for decades.
“The government apologizes for the manner in which those members of the defense forces who left to fight on the Allied side during World War Two were treated after the war by the state,” Minister for Justice and Defense Alan Shatter said in an address to parliament.
OK. About 67 years later than it should have been, but it’s symbolically important, as was the belated US apology in 1988 for interning Japanese-Americans during the war.
“In the almost 73 years since the outbreak of World War II, our understanding of history has matured,” he said. “It is time for understanding and forgiveness.”
I don’t think there can ever be understanding for the wrong done to these heroes. As for forgiveness, it’s not the deserting soldiers who required it, but DeValera and the other Irish politicians (almost all now dead, I assume) who inflicted the injustice on them, and who should have had to beg for it.