This is the moving and redemptive story of William T Bennett of Killeady Mill, Ballinhassig, Co Cork, an ex-serviceman and a Protestant during the dark days of 1919-23.
Sean Lemass made a heartfelt apology to the memory of Irish ex-servicemen during the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
"In later years it was common - and I also was guilty in this respect - to question the motives of those men who joined the new British armies at the outbreak of the war, but it must, in their honour, and in fairness to their memories, be said that they were motivated by the highest purpose."
Likewise, Brian Lenihan made amends to Protestant IRA victims in his Beal na Blath speech of 2010, paying tribute to Peter Hart for chronicling the fate of those who suffered because of "where they worked or worshipped".
Lemass and Lenihan shame the army of nationalist historians who have attempted to explain away what I would call politico-sectarian actions by a few IRA units during the War of Independence and Civil War.
Ronan McGreevy provided a balanced picture that reflects Lemass's view that veterans had sometimes been treated poorly:
"For the Irish who returned home, their fate was compounded by the political situation. These men were shunned, ostracised from Irish society, and in many cases murdered by the IRA."
But there was worse than shunning. Over half the 71 victims executed by the First Cork Brigade IRA as alleged spies were ex-servicemen, Catholics and Protestants.
As outsiders they were easy scapegoats for IRA intelligence breaches that common sense tells us were far more likely to have come from inside the IRA itself.
But life was especially tough for Protestant ex-servicemen, as we can see from the claim made to the Irish Grants Commission in 1924 by William Bennett, kindly copied to me by Cal and Joan Hyland who photographed the Kew files.
Bill Bennett, as he was known to his GAA peers, was what Thomas Davis, also a patriotic Protestant, would call ''racy of the soil''.
So much so that, according to the 1911 Census, his Church of Ireland parents claimed to speak both English and Irish.
Bill was also an accomplished athlete, a superb road bowl player, and, above all, an ardent member of the GAA.
But being a cultural Irish patriot did not spare him from being singled out for intimidation by the IRA.
Tribal historians try to gloss over the political sectarianism that surfaced in some areas in the War of Independence.
That is why they target classics like Peter Hart's The IRA and its Enemies and Robin Bury's Buried Lives, which took up the Protestant story from 1923, where Hart left off.
Bill, in his claim, is quite clear about the politico-sectarian mix that set him up for persecution.
It was because he was "a Protestant ex-soldier and a loyalist and it was solely for this reason I was persecuted".
His concisely written claim begins: "I was called up in 1914 and served in France. I had succeeded to my father's farm of 105 acres. I lost money while on active service as my wife found it hard to carry on, experiencing much opposition due to my being in the army."
But Bill loved his native spot, and being a man of parts he switched from farming to milling.
"On my return in 1918, I bought a mill. This was largely used by farmers and others, and when the Rebellion began I was owed something like 300 pounds sterling for the use of the mill."
But as the War of Independence went on, less scrupulous Roman Catholic farmers began to renege on their debts to Killeady Mill.
"In December 1921, I tried to get some of my money in, with the result that my premises were raided and my books burnt."
As he tersely explains: "Burning of my books, thereby unable to collect accounts."
The persecution did not stop at debt evasion. "A dead set was made at me. I was boycotted in every possible way. People did not and would not use my mill."
The persecution was not just petty but prolonged. The IRA, and later spiteful irregular tearaways, kept up pressure on him, not just during the truce and the Civil War, but up to 1923.
"Trap completely smashed. Deprived for months of both of my horses. Feeding bands of irregulars, 20 and 30 at a time in 1921, 1922, and 1923."
Eventually it was a case of emigrate or see his wife and family reduced to abject poverty.
But like many other Protestants who were forced out, the IRA were determined to make him leave with nothing.
"I tried to sell my land to get out of the country but no auction was allowed. Advertising sale of farm not allowed."
But then, to the mind of any real republican, comes the saddest part - the GAA banned him from his beloved road bowling.
"I was not allowed to take part in the Gaelic Association in which I had formerly won several championships."
This hurt him badly, because in later years he would boast that he was the first man to "loft the viaduct", the much cherished 100ft-high West Cork railway bridge just outside Cork city.
But with typical honesty, Bill added he had done it, not with the heavy 28oz bowl, but with the "junior" 16oz bowl!
Luckily for our sense of shame, and for the honour of real republicanism, there is a happy ending to Bill Bennett's story.
Fanatical Ireland failed to expel this true Irishman from 1919-23. But as soon as the tribal bigots slouched back into the shadows, decent Ireland clasped Bill to its bosom again.
How do we know that? Because the record shows that one of the flag-bearers at the 1924 Tailteann Games was one William T Bennett.
Bill Bennett's story does not end there. Because his son, Ossie Bennett, continued the proud GAA tradition of his tough father.
Older Cork fans will recall that Ossie Bennett was the revered legendary masseur credited with a major contribution to the great Cork hurling and football teams of the 1970s - while passing over Ossie's equally sterling work for the Kilkenny team.
Although it didn't seem to bother Ossie, my real republican father waxed indignant at the sight of a Protestant like Ossie Bennett, bending the knee to kiss the episcopal ring of the Roman Catholic bishop before an All-Ireland final.
Like many Irish Protestants in the Republic, the Bennett family practised a stoic omerta about their past suffering. Sometimes, what Gladstone called "blessed oblivion" seems the easiest solution.
But silence feeds tribal delusions, and deprives the Irish Republic of the saving grace of shame.
We should face up to what the IRA did to Bill Bennett and other Protestants in the period 1919-23 without academic apologias for IRA actions.
Saying sorry, like feeling shame, is one of the saving graces of civil society.