Yesterday a pardon was announced for 5,000 former soldiers who deserted from the Irish Army. I welcome the pardon. The British Government pardoned many who were executed for desertion and cowardice in the First World War. The Minister previously described Ireland’s position during the Second World War as morally bankrupt. I disagree with that vehemently and would like to praise the many thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands who served in the Irish Army and the local defence forces during the Second World War. Newspaper reports state those who are still with us say they deserted because they wanted to fight in a war or wanted more money. That is fair enough but one should remember they did desert the Irish Army.
Consider the question of who were the most likely people to have invaded Ireland in 1939 and 1940. In the words of Winston Churchill, if it had suited Britain it was militarily prudent, it would have invaded us. It would have been ironic that those who deserted, many for the greatest and most noble of reasons, would have ended up attacking their former colleagues.