I am an American. I currently live and work in Ireland. But, I carry no special brief for Ireland and its people. When you wrote: “Ireland, like Sweden, has gotten a pass for behavior during World War II that doesn’t deserve a pass.” That’s true. But it is not the whole story either.
Tens of thousands of Irish people—from the Republic (albeit technically not a republic until 1949)—volunteered to fight for the Allies and against the Axis. At the conclusion of the war, these people were not punished by the Irish legal system for what they did. (They might not have been publicly praised either, but have our troops returning from the recent Asian conflicts received parades?) That said, Irish citizens already serving in Ireland’s armed forces who deserted from the Irish armed forces to fight for the Allies and against the Axis are somewhat different. What do you think an American court would have done to an American soldier who deserted the U.S. armed forces just prior to the outbreak of WWII, who after the war ended, returned to the United States? He risked prosecution, jail, and, perhaps, worse. Much worse. The Irish did not jail such soldiers/deserters. They denied their former soldiers/deserters government work for seven years. That is hardly out of line with the practices of greater humanity.
Ireland made every effort to stay (at least, formally) neutral. It is difficult for democracies to fight wars when not attacked. Ireland was not attacked by the Axis.* Its action here was not praiseworthy. But Ireland’s conduct was not much different from the United States, which also stayed neutral until actually attacked in 1941. It is true that even when neutral, the United States favored the Allies. But, so did Ireland. When Allied flyers bailed out over Ireland, they were escorted to Northern Ireland (then and now a part of the UK) where they rejoined their companies. Axis fliers (and naval personnel) were interned for the course of hostilities.
The British did not exactly jump at the chance to fight either. By the time of British entry, Italy and Spain had already fallen to fascism, (former) Czechoslovakia had been abandoned by Chamberlain, and Japan had conquered large chunks of China. For millions, especially in Asia and Africa, WWII began long before 1939 and the Phony War of 1939–1940.
The British delayed entering the war until they were ready and until they thought their most essential interests were at stake. Then they fought.
Please keep in mind that the story you linked to is from the BBC. One would think that the first question the BBC should have asked is how did the post-WWII British government treat Irish and other expatriate soldiers who fought for Britain (and humanity) during WWII. That question might take some serious introspection, but don’t expect that from the biased BBC (http://biased-bbc.blogspot.com). It is so much easier for them to attack foreigners. Just think how the BBC reports on the United States: its government and its people.
Again, the conduct of the Irish during WWII was not all one could have hoped for. There were (some) people here during WWII listening to radio reports and hoping Britain would fall: oblivious to the fact that they were next in line. Cheering Hitler’s victories. Old hatreds don’t die so easily. But, today, the Irish children and grandchildren of such people do not (at least, openly) praise their parents’ and grandparents’ behavior, and Irish society is reexamining its wartime conduct. (http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/ian-odoherty/ian-odoherty-im-proud-to-wear-the-poppy-for-the-fallen-kids-and-mad-larry-2932241.html) In America, we still have people who think Julius Rosenberg was innocent or praiseworthy, and others who believe that C.S.A. soldiers were patriots. There is a lot of room for self-improvement all around.
The above was originally posted on Instapundit. SeeGlenn Reynolds, This Doesn’t Reflect Well on Ireland: Why Irish Soldiers Who Fought Hitler Hide Their Medals: Another Update, Instapundit (Jan. 2, 2012, 6:16 PM), pjmedia.com/instapundit/134529.
For another take on these events and times, see Seth Barrett Tillman, Advice to the Allies—1945, 15(2) Claremont Review of Books 13, Spring 2015, http://ssrn.com/abstract=2478600, http://tinyurl.com/pbhmrox.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman )
My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, The Irish Courts, The New Reform Club (Sept. 19, 2016, 2:38 PM), http://tinyurl.com/j7qej3j,
*Actually, Germany bombed Ireland on several occasions during WWII. The German government claimed these were accidents and, by mutual agreement, it paid reparations to Ireland during the war. On two occasions, the Germans bombed Irish areas with Jewish populations, not that there were that many Jews in Ireland during WWII. Make from that what you will. See http://tinyurl.com/z29cauq.