THOUSANDS OF MEN deserted the Irish Defence Forces during the Second World War to fight with the British armed forces. Some did so because of their feelings about fascism, some because they were bored, others for better pay. When those who surivived the war came home they found that, as well as dismissing them from the Defence Forces, Éamon de Valera’s government had, more damagingly, blacklisted them from all state jobs. [IRISH TIMES
Widders also argues that the 1941 Children Act, which sent thousands of youngsters to industrial schools exposed by the Ryan report in recent years, was used with particular vindictiveness against the children of deserters from the Defence Forces.
“The Irish government lobbied the British government to have the payment of family allowances, to which married Irish soldiers in the British Army were entitled, paid directly to the Irish State [for children held in care]. In effect, this helped finance incarceration,”
The British State papers on this aspect are to be kept secret for another 30 years it appears. Not mentioned in the above story is this:
There was British complicity in paying for children seized by the Irish authorities while their fathers were fighting in the second world war. This has been exposed by the research of one of the former inmates, Patrick Walsh who lives in Holloway, north London, still carries in his wallet a creased photograph of himself as a child playing on the dodgems - a rare holiday treat while he was in the Industrial School. He was kept there from 1955, when he was two, until 1969.
He discovered an extraordinary secret buried in the public record office in Kew, West London, which dates from the time of the Dublin legislation allowing children to be committed to industrial schools. The law was introduced in 1941 when Britain was nearly on its knees after Germany had overrun mainland Europe and Ireland was a neutral country. At that time some 50,000 Irish men and women had crossed the border and joined British forces fighting the Germans. In particular some 4,000 servicemen had deserted the Irish Free Army to fight on the British side. These "deserters" were regarded with particular contempt by Eamon de Valera then Taoiseach, whose administration was to pass a law in 1945 to prevent any of them getting jobs with the state for seven years. Many of the children of these "deserter" soldiers were put into care on the grounds that they had been abandoned by their fathers. The Kew documents contain correspondence between officials in Dublin and the British War Office and the Admiralty. The Irish government demanded that the family allowance that would have been paid to the Irish servicemen if their children had not been committed should be handed over to the Industrial Schools.
Britain initially refused but the Irish were persistent, and Frederick Boland, a senior official who worked closely with De Valera, wrote increasingly trenchant letters.
In one he couples the demand with the comment:
"There is the further incidental consideration that in not a few of these cases the lack of parental control to which the committal of the children is due is attributable to the absence of the fathers with your forces."
By the end of the war Britain had capitulated and paid up. It then became clear, according to Mr Walsh, that the Irish had the servicemen's numbers and knew who was serving with the British. Mr Walsh said:
"It suggests that if Dublin could supply the roll numbers of the troops involved - rather than the other way round - there was surveillance of the families at the time. The fact that the public record office is keeping secret some other files for up to 100 years on the connection between neutral Ireland and the Nazis suggests that more will come out."
There is one other very nasty aspect to this story: the suggestion that many, if not all, of the children may have been physically and sexually abused at the Industrial Schools.