Yesterday the Irish parliament formally forgave(ouch) the 5000 of its soldiers who left the peace of Ireland in 1939 and fought against Hitler. When they returned in 1945 they were branded traitors and forbidden state jobs and pensions which in turn sentenced their families to a generation of poverty. Yesterday the country that still bans abortion ,protected paedophile priests and until recently banned most books granted an amnesty (from prosecution!) to the few of the 5000,still alive, who answered freedom’s call.
On April 30 1945 Hitler deep in his Berlin bunker slunk into his bedroom with his new bride Eva and while she took poison he pulled the trigger. The long night was nearly over. But for some it was a time of sadness.
On May 2 Eamon de Valera the prime minister of Eire and his Foreign Secretary Joe Walsh personally presented their formal condolences to the German ambassador. He was the only head of state to do such a thing. Even Salazar the Portuguese dictator who ordered two days of mourning didn’t personally say how sorry he was. While the Irish blethered on about neutrality those like the Swiss who know everything about staying neutral , made their excuses and sat on their hands.
But the Irish tears did not stop there. On the May 3 the Irish President , Douglas Hyde went round and said how sorry he was about the death of the German leader. Four days later the Germans surrendered, The world rejoiced, spontaneous parties and joyous celebration were heard around the world. Not least on the Protestant Trinity College, Dublin. Union and American flags were flown the French national anthem sung.
Immediately an Irish mob carrying the tricolours and Vatican(?) flags attacked Trinity and had to be fought off by Irish soldiers and policemen. They at least would not be forbidden state jobs or pensions.
The world did not take kindly to this show of partiality to the Nazi cause. Only the Irish would of course show such support when the Nazis were completely finished. Earlier in the war they had fully expected (wanted?) the Germans to win. Their behaviour in those days in May made many wonder if they were fit to join the United Nations.
But some did agree with the Irish position. The British Union of Fascists then underground got a message through to the Irish leader “expressing deep appreciation. ..for honouring the memory of the greatest German in history”.
But of course many were still prepared to give “Dev” the benefit of the doubt. Irish Foreign Secretary Brian Lenihan in 1988 said, “Perhaps one day we will come to see de Valera’s observance of the protocol being understood as a far sighted recognition of the inextinguishable rights of the German people.”
As Marlon Brando says in the Godfather, “Maybe that day will never come”.