The Shame of Ireland

The Shame of Ireland

De Valera Incarcerated Children of anti-Nazi Fighters

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.

Views: 125

Comment by Andrew Brennan on November 16, 2010 at 18:39
I've been told my father joined up too - long before I was born. There's also an irony in the Institutional Abuse saga in that most of the people who got out of the Institutions and who left Ireland were welcomed in the United Kingdom - ironic in the sense that the two things they beat into us in the institutions [Religion and hatred of England] resulted in most of us giving up religion and going to England.
Comment by pauline jackson on November 23, 2010 at 15:59
Any belief Ihad was beaten out of me by the bride of christ.. i dont go to churchs. Thay are full of lying hypocrites afraid of life itself.
Comment by Andrew Brennan on November 24, 2010 at 13:08
Heroism and betrayal

A new book looks at the anomalous position of Irish soldiers during World War II. Robert Widders has the story.

IRELAND remained neutral throughout World War II, despite intense pressure from the USA and Great Britain. But Ireland had little real choice at the time. This was a country that had not long won its independence, and had then fought a painful and divisive civil war. And joining the Allies would have alienated a significant part of the population, and probably led to widespread civil unrest. But it was an odd sort of neutrality, because over 70,000 men from the Irish Free State (as it then was) left their homes and families, took the train up to Belfast, and joined the British armed forces. After the war, the Irish Government made much of this fact to point out, quite rightly, that Ireland played a part in defeating Nazism and bringing the Holocaust to an end. But the story is not quite that straightforward...

When war broke out in Europe the Irish Government prepared for a possible invasion. But the Irish Army found itself seriously under-manned and woefully ill-equipped. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the army had been organised, re-organised, and constantly underfunded. Now it lacked not just the essentials of modern warfare — such as aeroplanes, artillery, tanks and antiaircraft guns — but even sufficient stocks of small arms ammunition.

The wartime strength of the Irish Army was intended to be 40,000 men. But after the initial surge of recruitment in 1939 and 1940, the army struggled for the rest of the Emergency to keep up to strength. And one of the reasons for this is that literally thousands of soldiers deserted, crossed the border into Northern Ireland, and joined the British armed forces. These so called ‘deserters’ fought in every battle and campaign of the Second World War. They served at sea on the hazardous Atlantic convoys bringing food and raw materials into Britain and Ireland. They flew near suicidal bombing missions with the RAF to destroy Nazi oil reserves and munitions factories. And they stormed the beaches of Normandy and fought to liberate occupied Europe from Nazi domination.

After the war, the Irish Government court martialled 4,983 of these men en masse and in absentia, contrary to all the laws of natural justice, without representation or right of reply. They were formally dismissed from the Irish Army and stripped of all pay and pension rights. The Government also decided to prevent them from finding work, by banning them for seven years from any employment paid by State or public funds. So it circulated the deserters’ names and addresses to every Government department, town hall, railway station and anywhere else that they might look for a job.

Of course, the Government had to take some action. But the legislation was framed so that it discriminated between those men who deserted from the Irish Army and fought with the Allies, and those who deserted and remained at home in Ireland. For instance, Michael Joyce and William Moore deserted from the Irish Army in 1941. But unlike most of the other deserters, they didn’t join the British Army. Instead, they started a new career as burglars. Not long after deserting, they were arrested on charges of breaking and entering. But Joyce and Moore weren’t banned from employment with the state, though the men who had fought against Germany were.

Clearly, the intention was to punish only those men who fought with the British Army after they’d deserted.

It’s difficult now, almost three-quarters of a century later, to realise the implications of the Government’s actions. We live in societies with a basic safety net of universal benefits, so no citizen regardless of his status need starve or be homeless. But in Ireland in 1945 there were few job opportunities, apart from with the State and local authorities. And men returning from the war, with no entitlement to dole or benefits, and little chance of employment, faced a bleak future in Ireland. So ex-soldiers were being pressured to live in Britain, where they would receive help in finding work and housing, and were entitled to financial benefits.

In effect, Irish citizens were being banished from Ireland by an Irish Government.

The Government was condemned in the Dáil by the opposition party, Fine Gael. They argued, with some justification, that the Government’s legislation was illegal: It had been framed as an Emergency Powers Act after the end of the Emergency. Fine Gael deputy leader, Dr. Thomas F. O’Higgins, described the Government’s action as “brutal, unchristian and inhuman, stimulated by malice, seething with hatred, and oozing with venom”.

But the Government’s actions were even more mean-spirited and vindictive than the opposition realised. Hundreds of men had died long before they were court martialled and banned from employment. Men like Joseph Mullally would never cheat the dole queue and get a job with the council. He’d already died on D-Day, June 6, 1944, fighting the Nazis on the beaches of Normandy — a year before his court martial. And Stephen McManus would never get a job in Ireland either. Stephen had been captured whilst fighting against the Japanese Army, and was later forced to work building the Burma Railway. Another Irish soldier, who survived his captivity, described the sort of conditions they laboured under.

“The Nips [Japanese] were given orders that they had to get the railway finished early. That summer [July-October 1943] they worked us like slaves. Well, we were slaves really. We worked day an’ night with hardly any food, and men were dying like flies. My pal collapsed in the heat one day. The guard started hitting him with a bamboo stick. He couldn’t get up and the Nip just beat him to death and kicked his body down into the ditch. There was nothing you could do — if you tried to stop them, they would go crazy and you’d get the same. I don’t like to think of it really, but I can still see it now.”

Along with thousands of other soldiers, McManus suffered torture and starvation whilst being worked to death in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. He died in July 1943. And Stephen McManus and Joseph Mullally were just two of the many dead men who were court martialled in 1945.

■ The full story is told in a forthcoming book, Spitting On A Soldier’s Grave, by Robert Widders, which will be published November 1. The book can be ordered via www.robertwidders.

Submitted by KF
Comment by pauline jackson on November 24, 2010 at 21:07
But what about the air space . That wasent neutral. the armys flew over to bomb the nazi strongholds. But all that hate directed towards thier own is suspicous in inself . History is full of wars caused by the people at the head of this or that country. We learn years later that its all manipulation on the part of the elite. No wonder some of the people turned to drinking . It was a way of conforming to an image held up before them.
Comment by Catherine Roberts on December 17, 2010 at 21:18

Hi Andrew what an interesting story as the saying goes we learn somthing new every day.Thanking you for the information enjoy reading your comments keep it up.Take care.

Comment by jack colleton on July 26, 2011 at 23:00
political partys must be held to account for their actions.
Comment by roisin o'reilly on August 12, 2011 at 12:46
I second Catherine's comments.  Andrew could easily have Ph.D after his name.
Comment by jack colleton on August 15, 2011 at 15:12
Comment by jack colleton on August 15, 2011 at 15:17
Comment by jack colleton on August 15, 2011 at 15:20

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of The Shame of Ireland to add comments!

Join The Shame of Ireland


Rob Northall created this Ning Network.



This is a Private Site

Membership is drawn from Survivors of the Irish Industrial School System their Family and Friends. Survivors of the Magdalene Laundries their Families and Friends are welcome too!

Others can follow on Twitter by Clicking the Button Bellow

Follow ShameOfIreland on Twitter

 Follow on FACE BOOK by Clicking <HERE>

Please Like this FACE BOOK Page?


  • Add Photos
  • View All



© 2021   Created by Rob Northall.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service