Pardoned soldier attends memorial

One of the last surviving Irish soldiers granted a pardon after fighting against Nazi Germany has laid a wreath to remember his comrades.

Phil Farrington joined a small group of relatives and supporters at Islandbridge war memorial in Dublin to remember men who joined Allied forces and were blacklisted for their principles.

The Government announced a pardon for them in May.

Peter Mulvany, co-ordinator of the Irish Soldiers’ Pardons Campaign, said their fight to clear the names of thousands of soldiers has ended.

“The event has to be held to mark the passing and signing of the amnesty into Irish law. It is an unprecedented piece of legislation which clears all concerned,” he said.

“We wanted to hold it sometime around June, sometime around when the campaign for an amnesty started in earnest in 2011, on June 6.

“That’s also the date that one of the Irish lads who left to fight with the Allies died in the D-Day landings, Private Joseph Mullaly.”

Three poppy wreaths with Tricolours attached were laid at the memorial, one by Mr Farrington.

The 92-year-old, from Seville Place in Dublin’s north inner city, was 19 when he enlisted in the British army.

He served in France and Germany and helped to liberate Bergen-Belsen.

Two wreaths will be taken to the UK and laid at war memorials during Remembrance services in November to mark the Irish men and women forced to emigrate after returning from the war.

Piper Stefan O’Reilly, a 21-year veteran of the Irish Defence Forces who served on United Nations’ mission, also laid a laurel wreath in memory of Drummer Lee Rigby, who was murdered in London.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter announced a pardon in May for the thousands of soldiers who fought Nazi Germany and apologised for their treatment.

The men were dismissed en masse from the Irish Army, blacklisted, branded deserters at home and denied public sector jobs and welfare.

About 5,000 Irish soldiers who fought with the Allies had been found guilty by a military tribunal at the time of going awol.

The occasion is also being marked by emigrants in Australia, New Zealand and Burma.

Tim Lough, vice-chairman of the Royal British Legion in Buenos Aires, will lay a wreath at the British War Memorial in La Chacarita.

Andrew McDowell, branch secretary of the Regimental Association of the Ulster Defence Regiment – which supported the campaign for amnesty, wrote to the group to mark today’s event.

“We hope that the survivors and their families can now live without the shadow of the old law blighting their remaining time,” he said.

A separate memorial involving the Royal British Legion and relatives of Irish soldiers who fought in World War 1 takes place in July.

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