Letter to Editor of The Irish Times
Thu, Jun 30, 2011
Both Peter Mulvany (June 28th) and Robert Widders (June 24th) clearly imply that the action of those Irish soldiers, who deserted the Army and joined the Allied Forces to fight against the Nazis, somehow confers legitimacy on their actions. It doesn’t.
Regardless of the nobleness of their intentions, their actions were legally, morally and ethically wrong. Right and wrong are not convertible terms dependent upon popular opinion. Dáil Éireann voted to remain neutral during the second World War and Irish soldiers swore an Oath of Allegiance to defend the liberty of the Irish State, not betray it.
These men may have had a conscientious objection to being left out of a fight for liberty, but nonetheless their illegal actions imperilled the sovereignty of this nation. They had a duty of honour to uphold the will of the Irish people as expressed in our legislation and no amount of subterfuge can alter that fact.
One wonders if Mr Mulvany and Mr Widders would be campaigning so vigorously on behalf of these deserters if it was the Wehrmacht and not the British army they had joined?
The following Letter to the Editor has been extracted from The Irish Times
With regard to the campaign to pardon soldiers who deserted the Irish Army during the Second World War, Robert Widders (June 24th) is quite wrong to say that they were punished for the “crime of fighting against the Nazis”.
They were, in fact, punished for the crime of deserting their national army, in which they had voluntarily enlisted. Even today that would be considered a crime under military law anywhere in the world. It should also be noted that the punishment for desertion is often significantly worse than public vilification.
At the time when these men deserted, a State of Emergency was in place in Ireland and the country was living under the very real threat of invasion, both from the Nazis and from Britain. As such, it is quite understandable that the government of the day felt compelled to halt such large-scale desertion.
This campaign is, in effect, asking the Government to conclude that it is sometimes acceptable for members of our armed forces to leave and join a foreign army without permission. Can anyone seriously believe that kind of precedent should be set?