THE Irish Air Corps has declined an official invitation to take part in Battle of Britain commemorations in what some have claimed is a snub to veterans of World War II.
It is the 70th anniversary of the famous battle in the skies above England and the Irish military was invited to take part to commemorate Irish pilots who flew during the war.
A number of Irish pilots took part in the desperate battle for air supremacy above the southeast of England in 1940.
However, the Air Corps was forced to decline the invite due to "operational and training" reasons and said it would not take part in a commemorative fair this weekend.
The fair will include an airfield attack and will host Spitfires, Hurricanes and ME109s, which were the key aircraft involved in the battle.
The event will take place at RAF Biggin Hill, overlooking London, one of the key airfields in the battle.
Organisers said: "We are all aware of how diverse London is today. What is not quite so well known is the number of nations whose pilots flew from Biggin Hill during 1940: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Eire, France, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa [and the] USA.
"We have invited representatives and aircraft from some of these nations and hope that they will be able to join us in our commemorations."
The Defence Forces said that it was routinely asked to attend air shows both in Ireland and overseas but that it could not attend everything.
A statement said: "[We] receive numerous invitations to participate in air shows both at home and abroad every year. It is not feasible to accept all invitations received, for operational and financial reasons.
"Consideration is given to the merit of each invitation, and the decision to participate is made based on the training and operational benefits to the Air Corps. The programme of Air Corps attendance at air shows in 2010 is still under consideration."
The decision has come in for criticism from Air Corps personnel and posters on the popular irishmilitaryonline website.
One observer said: "Nothing to do with finance apparently as participation in other shows is going ahead. Assuming that the refusal is on political grounds, is it not time to put the 'Emergency', selective neutrality mindset behind us."
Another poster said that the Defence Forces could have sent ex-Irish Air Corps Seafires and Spitfires to the commemoration, but our "farsighted governments" had sold them.
The best-known Irish pilot to fight during the Battle of Britain was Paddy Finucane, from Rathmines in Dublin, who became the RAF's youngest wing commander.
Finucane was killed at the age of 21 after a ground attack on a German camp in France. He had told colleagues the Luftwaffe would never get him, but was hit by a machine gunner firing from the ground. Eight miles off the French coast, he sent a final message as his engine stopped: "This is it, chaps!"
By the time he died, he had claimed a total of 26 aircraft destroyed and had shot down the most decorated German air ace of the war, Adolf Galland, who bailed out and survived.
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