WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

True to Ireland

WelCom April 2019:

Éire’s ‘conscientious objectors’ in New Zealand in World War II

Annette Scullion

After Mass Fr Eamon blessed the headstone of Paddy Sullivan at Ōtaki Cemetery. Paddy came from Moycullen, Co Galway, and was one of the six ‘Sons of Eire’ who were part of the test case. ‘Until about three years ago his grave had been unmarked when I put a small headstone on it and this was blessed by Fr Eamon,’ Peter Burke said. Photo: WelCom

In the 1930s a number of Irishmen left their native Eire and came to New Zealand to seek a better life. But with WWII came conscription. However, as Ireland was neutral during WWII the men refused to betray Ireland and fight for New Zealand and, by default, Britain.

Peter Burke’s well-researched book documents their struggles with officials and politicians and how 155 of them, including his father, faced deportation back to Ireland. Eventually these men won the right to stay and work in New Zealand, without having to wear the British uniform that was anathema to them.

‘The story is a deeply personal one because my father Matthias Burke was one of the six men chosen to be a part of the ‘test case’. As well he was also a member of the executive of the Eire National Association,’ says Peter Burke.

A special guest at the week-long series of events to launch the book was Fr Eamon Aylward, from Ireland, and nephew of Maurice Aylward one of the 155 men, and one of the six in the test case. Fr Eamon said a special Mass at St Mary’s Church, Pukekaraka, Ōtaki, dedicated to all the 155 Irishmen who were ‘True to Ireland’. The names of all were read out, as well two books – one destined to be presented to Ireland’s President, Michael D Higgins – were blessed by Fr Eamon at the Mass. Many of those present were old boys of St Patrick’s College Wellington or connected to the ‘Sons of Eire’.

Peter Burke was born in Wellington and educated at St Francis Xavier’s Primary School in Porirua and St Patrick’s College, Wellington. He has worked for more than 50 years as a journalist in television, radio, print and public relations.

True To Ireland is a detailed account of a compelling chapter in New Zealand’s history that has strong political and personal links to Ireland. It is available at book shops throughout New Zealand or online from The Cuba Press or Unity Books.

Read more about the book at http://www.true-to-ireland.com/story.php