“What happened to them was vindictive and not only a stain on their honour but on the honour of Ireland”

The BBC’s John Waite previews his forthcoming Radio 4 Face the Facts – The Disowned Army –  to be broadcast 12.30GMT on Wednesday 4 January 2012.  It’s subject, the post-World War II treatment in Ireland of around 5,000 Irish soldiers who deserted their own neutral army to join the British army and fought in Europe and elsewhere.  From the BBC article

They were formally dismissed from the Irish army, 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.

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”, and for many of their families the phrase became painfully close to the truth.

And, as the BBC article goes on to note

Until I showed him the list – the size of a slim phone directory and marked “confidential” – John Stout had not realised his name was included.

But after the war it quickly became apparent that he could not get work and was not welcome in Ireland – so he returned to Britain.

“I feel very betrayed about how we were treated, it was wrong and even today they should say sorry for the problems we had to endure. We never even got to put our case or argue why it was unjust,” said Mr Stout.

And the list itself is far from accurate, according to Robert Widders, who has written a book about the deserters’ treatment called Spitting on a Soldier’s Grave.

“It contains the names of men who were to be punished but who’d already been killed in action, but not the names of men who deserted the Irish army to spend their war years as burglars or thieves,” he said.

In recent months, a number of Irish parliamentarians have begun pressing their government to issue a pardon to the few deserters who remain alive.

“What happened to them was vindictive and not only a stain on their honour but on the honour of Ireland,” TD Gerald Nash said.

Read the whole thing.