30 Dec 2011

Calls for pardons for Irish ''traitors''

7:47 am on 30 December 2011

They landed on the Normandy beaches on D Day, but when they returned home to Ireland, they were treated as traitors and put on a government blacklist because they fought for the British.

During World War II some 5000 soldiers deserted from the Irish armed forces to enlist with the British. Thousands of civilians also signed up to fight

Now calls are growing for ''deserters'' still alive to be pardoned by the government and recognised as war heroes.

In recent months, a number of parliamentarians have begun pressing the government to issue a pardon to them.

Among those still living are:

Phil Farrington, 92, who took part in the D-Day landings and helped liberate a concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen - but he wears his medals in secret.

The BBC reports that even to this day, he has nightmares that he will be arrested and imprisoned for his wartime service.

John Stout served with the Irish Guards armoured division which raced captured a key bridge at Arnhem. He also fought in the Battle of the Bulge, ending the war as a commando.

However, he was treated as a pariah on his return home to Cork.

Neutrality policy

It was only 20 years since Ireland had won its independence after many centuries of rule from London.

Ireland had a policy of strict neutrality during the war.

The deserters were formally dismissed from the Irish army, stripped of all pay and pension rights, and prevented from finding work.

A special "list" containing their names and addresses was circulated to every government department, town hall and railway station - anywhere they might look for a job.

It was referred to in the Dail (the Irish parliament) at the time as a "starvation order".