I was struck by this line of thought in Joseph Quinn’s piece in the Irish Times on Saturday, which focuses on the trial of an Irish war veteran, who unfortunately for him had left (ie, deserted) the Irish Army for the British during the Second World War:
Kehoe had left the safety of the Army to face the dangers of fighting the Nazis which, “in any civilised country, was not a case for punishment at all”. Sadly, the trial’s outcome was dictated by the political dogma that had reigned in neutral Ireland and that would unfortunately come to define the state of the country at that time. The Emergency Powers (No 362) Order, which became enshrined in Irish statute law at the stroke of Taoiseach Éamon de Valera’s pen as section 13 of the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act 1946, formally dismissed deserters from the Defence Forces, stripping them of pay and gratuity rights. It deprived them of the right to make claims under the Unemployment Insurance Act or from obtaining any State or public employment for seven years.
The punishment may not have qualified as cruel and unusual, but it was extraordinarily vindictive and social and economic in its nature. At a time when all manner of Ireland’s history is under constant revision, Quinn suggests now is the time to do something about it.
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