Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Pardon expected for 'deserters'

Defence Minister Alan Shatter apologised to ex-soldiers dismissed en masse from the Irish Army during the Second World War

The Irish government is expected to issue a pardon within weeks to thousands of Irish soldiers who joined the British to fight Nazi Germany.

Legislation to grant an amnesty to the former troops - who were blacklisted and branded deserters at home - cleared one of its final hurdles on Wednesday as it passed through a committee stage in the Dail.

A Department of Defence spokeswoman said it is now hoped the law would be enacted next month, with Defence Minister Alan Shatter expected to make an official announcement during a debate on May 7.

If passed, as expected, President Michael D Higgins would sign into the law the pardon within a week of that date.

Mr Shatter has already apologised to the ex-soldiers, who were dismissed en masse from the Irish Army under special powers introduced during the Second World War, known as the Emergency in neutral Ireland.

The Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Bill 2012 provides for the granting of an amnesty and immunity from prosecution to 5,000 Irish soldiers who fought with the Allies.

They had been found guilty by a military tribunal at the time of going awol.

Special powers brought in - which became known as the starvation order - saw the deserters barred from state jobs, refused military pensions and faced with widespread discrimination.

Mr Shatter has referred to the soldiers as idealists and said people's understanding of history has matured and that it was time for understanding and forgiveness.

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