The Anzac Day ceremony was held at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul and was followed by the dedication of the Memorial of the Irish Dead of the Korean War.

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At the ceremony  to dedicate the Irish Memorial, the Irish Ambassador Dr Eamonn McKee said  “It is unknown how many men of Irish birth and heritage fought and died in Korean but it is clear that the sacrifice of the Irish through their participation in the armies of the Commonwealth and USA armies was very significant.

The Royal Ulster Rifles, comprised roughly equally of Catholics and Protestants, played an heroic role in both the battle of Happy Valley and the critical battle of the Imjin River.

The battle of the Imjin River in April 1951 saved Seoul and preserved the integrity of UN Command.  The valiant role played by those who fought and died there fully deserves to be acknowledged and commemorated.

In their defence of South Korea, under the UN flag, the Irish of birth and heritage contributed to the foundation of the flourishing economy and democracy that is South Korea today …”

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There is one Irish/Australian casualty that I know of Corporal William Kevin Murphy (B Company, 3RAR) remembered on the memorial to the missing at the UN cemetery in Busan. He was killed in the battle of Kapyong.

Pte Dennis Murphy

Cpl William Murphy

Corporal Murphy was born in Ennis, County Clare. His mother still lived there when she heard the sad news in 1951. He was just 22, born on 13 February 1921.

Murphy ‘s body was never found – but he was most probably killed on the night of 23/24 April in the B Company position on the small ridge on the west side of the road to Kapyong.

This focus on the Irish heritage of those who fought for Britain has a special poignancy for the 5000 or so ‘deserters’ who left the Irish armed forces in the Second World War to fight for Britain. Ireland was neutral in that conflict, although some 60,000 Irish served in the British armed forces. Ireland did not send military or medical support in the Korean War.

Legislation was passed in April 2013 to pardon the 5,000. These men had been barred from taxpayer-funded jobs, and had no pension rights. This was known as the ‘starvation order’

The Irish justice minister says the pardon will recognise the men’s bravery, and make an important difference to thousands of families who suffered from the post-war policies.