The Irish government may pardon 5,000 Irishmen blacklisted by the state for fighting for Britain in the Second World War.
Senator Mary Ann O’Brien expects Ireland’s Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, to issue the full pardon by the end of 2012. The Irish government has denied that a pardon is imminent but did say that Minister Shatter has referred the matter to the Attorney General.
Although Ireland was neutral during the war, about five per cent of the Irish Army deserted and joined their British counterparts to fight against fascism.
They were regarded as heroes by the British forces but ostracised on their return home when their names were placed on an official blacklist which banned them from getting jobs, benefits, or pensions.
Some Irish soldiers who fought for Britain even had their children put into care by the Eamon De Valera led government.
Cork native John Stout served with the Irish Guards armoured division. He was involved in the famous capture of a key bridge at Arnhem and also fought in the Battle of the Bulge, ending the war as a commando.
In a new BBC radio documentary, Stout reveals how he was treated ‘like a pariah’ on his return home to Cork.
“What they did to us was wrong,” says Stout. “I know that in my heart. They cold-shouldered you. They didn’t speak to you.
“A lot of Irish people wanted Germany to win the war - they were dead up against the British.”
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The BBC documentary confirms that a special ‘list’ containing their names and addresses was drawn up and circulated to every government department, town hall, and railway station; anywhere the men might look for a job.
The programme also states that the list was referred to in the Irish parliament at the time as a “starvation order”.
Senator O’Brien, who describes the list as a stain on the nation’s history, believes that the time has come to pardon the men.
She said, “I just think it would be such a wonderful gift to those people and it’s such a small gift to make sure that they’re properly pardoned and recognised for what they did.”
O’Brien expects Minister Shatter to act soon on behalf of the 5,000 men involved.
“I’m glad to say that it is very much foremost on his agenda and he said that we will hear from him at the end of the first quarter of 2012,” added the Senator.