Irish veterans of the Spanish Civil War to be honoured with Spanish citizenship in recognition of their services in defence of democracy.
The Spanish Civil War was fought from 1936 to 1939. One hundred and forty five young men left Ireland to join the International Brigades and fight fascism in Spain. For the most part they left quietly for to be seen to be fighting against Franco, was seen to be enlisting on the side of the Devil.
Veteran Michael O'Riordan, a former Chairperson of the Communist Party of Ireland, recalls the oppressive atmosphere in Ireland at the time,
Not all the people, but a large majority of people who were pro-Franco, and they believed it was a war between Christ and Antichrist.
Peter O'Connor, a former Waterford Corporation Councillor, is the last of ten Waterford International Brigaders. He fought in some of the bloodiest battles at Jarama and Brunete. The Brunete front was open warfare,
I saw lads, Spanish, going up to the front without arms in their hands waiting for the comrades to be either killed or wounded, to take their rifles, to carry on the fight, they were so desperate for arms at the time.
There was no hero's welcome for those who survived on their return to Ireland. That the Spanish parliament has voted unanimously to grant citizenship to the survivors from the International Brigades is of great importance to both men. It is finally official recognition from all sides of the justness of their cause and a fitting homage to the memory of their fallen comrades.
For Michael O'Riordan, the recognition has been a long time coming, however,
It’s a vindication of what we stood for in republican Spain, the election of a democratic government and the right to the Spanish people to elect such a government.
Peter O'Connor does not regret his actions in the fight against fascism in Spain,
Never, not one minute of my life, in fact they were the proudest moments in my life.
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 7 May 1996. The reporter is Róisín Duffy.