The tales of Irish soldiers have never been forgotten. Today the world paused to remember the brave soldiers who fought during the two World Wars. We join them in remembering the Irish soldiers who fought during these wars.
It is thought that thousands of soldiers left Ireland to fight in the British army during the Second World War. Even though Ireland remained a neutral force during the war, these brave men and women crossed seas to fight for a cause they believed in. From the airforce to the D-Day landings, these soldiers followed in The Wild Geese footsteps and fought for freedom.
While some paid the ultimate price in this fight, other returned home where they would not find the heroes welcome they deserved. Labelled as ‘deserters’ of the Irish army by the government, these soldiers were barred from state jobs and refused military pensions. Many families were ostracised, like Paddy Reid, whose father left to fight with the Allies:
‘It took all those years to find work and when he did, he never missed a day in his life,’ Explains Reid. It was also a difficult life for him as teachers at school weren’t afraid to let him know that he didn’t belong.
However, this all changed earlier this year when the Irish government pardoned the deserters, apologising for their treatment and acknowledging their brave actions. Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter announced an Amnesty and Immunity Bill in May, promising to remove ‘any tarnish from the names and reputations’ of these Irish soldiers. The bill recognised that ‘had Germany successfully invaded Great Britain, Ireland was next on the list. These individuals made a substantial contribution to protect the sovereignty of this country’.
For people like Paddy Reid, this was welcome news and has given them a fresh opportunity to honour the soldiers during this year’s Remembrance ceremonies.
‘Now there’s a great sense of vindication,’ outlined Reid, ‘Those soldiers did what they did and fought with bravery. They should be remembered for that’.
Private Joseph Mullaly was another soldier who fought in the Second World War. He died in the D-Day landings, an operation that helped turn the tide of the war in Europe. This goes to show the ultimate sacrifice that many of these soldiers made and the vital role they played, fighting for a cause they believed in.
Private Mullaly died in June 1944, and to mark the contribution he and all the other Irish soldiers made to the war effort, a memorial ceremony was held at Enniskillen, Co. Farmaragh in June this. Two wreaths were also taken to the UK and laid at the war memorials during the weekend’s Remembrance ceremonies.