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Irish government promises action on WWII deserters

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BBC News UK
January 2, 2012

The Irish government is to take action over the soldiers who were punished for fighting with the British during World War II, the BBC understands.

Ireland was neutral during the conflict, but around 10% of its armed forces deserted to join the fight against fascism.  On their return many were placed on an official blacklist, banning them from getting jobs, benefits or pensions.

There has been growing pressure on Dublin to issue the men with a pardon.

Now Senator Mary Ann O’Brien says Ireland’s minister of justice, Alan Shatter, is actively working on the matter.  She said: “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.”

Around 5,000 soldiers were formally dismissed from the Irish army for serving with the British.

“Starvation order”

They were stripped of all pay and pension rights, and prevented from finding work by being banned for seven years from any employment paid for by state or government funds.

John Stout fought in the Battle of the Bulge but was treated as a pariah back home in Cork. Many also had their children taken into care.  John Stout served with the Irish Guards armoured division which raced to Arnhem to capture a key bridge.  He also fought in the Battle of the Bulge, ending the war as a commando.  On his return home to Cork, however, he says he was treated as a pariah.

“What they did to us was wrong,” he says.

“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.”

A special “list” was drawn up containing their names and addresses, and circulated to every government department, town hall and railway station – anywhere the men might look for a job.  It was referred to in the Irish parliament – the Dail – at the time as a “starvation order”.  Senator O’Brien described the list as a stain on the nation’s history.

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.”

    HOLOCAUST DEATHS BY COUNTRY

    COUNTRY

    ESTIMATED
    PRE-WAR
    JEWISH
    POPULATION

    ESTIMATED
    JEWISH
    POPULATION
    ANNIHILATED

    Poland

    3,300,000

    3,000,000

    Baltic countries

    253,000

    228,000

    Germany & Austria

    240,000

    210,000

    Bohemia & Moravia

    90,000

    80,000

    Slovakia

    90,000

    75,000

    Greece

    70,000

    54,000

    Netherlands

    140,000

    105,000

    Hungary

    650,000

    450,000

    Byelorussian SSR

    375,000

    245,000

    Ukrainian SSR

    1,500,000

    900,000

    Belgium

    65,000

    40,000

    Yugoslavia

    43,000

    26,000

    Romania

    600,000

    300,000

    Norway

    2,173

    890

    France

    350,000

    90,000

    Bulgaria

    64,000

    14,000

    Italy

    40,000

    8,000

    Luxembourg

    5,000

    1,000

    Russian SFSR

    975,000

    107,000

    Finland

    2,000

    22

    Denmark

    8,000

    52

    TOTALS

    8,861,800

    5,933,900