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The Republic of Ireland (aka The Irish Free State, Éire) declared neutrality during the Second World War. That wasn’t particularly unusual: Portugal Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland did too. Yet around 60,000 “neutral” Irish volunteered to fight on one side (with the Allies, in this case). That was unusual. After the war, most of the Irish volunteers remained in the UK. But 12,000 of them came back to Ireland. In Returning Home: Irish Ex-Servicemen and the Second World War (Merrion, 2012), Bernard Kelly tells their story. Like most things in Irish history, it’s complicated. On the one hand, the volunteers had served in the armed forces of Ireland’s archenemy (at least according to Republicans). On the other hand, they had fought the Nazis and thereby protected the Free World. Bernard explains how the Irish veterans were received and, interestingly, how they are still being discussed in Ireland today.
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