Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Wait continues for wartime pardons

Defence Minister Alan Shatter is awaiting the advice of the Attorney General Maire Whelan over war deserters

It could be months before the Irish Government decides whether to pardon 5,000 soldiers branded deserters and blacklisted for fighting for Britain against Nazi Germany, it has emerged.

The troops, regarded as idealists by Justice and Defence Minister Alan Shatter, were dismissed en masse under special powers introduced during the Second World War.

But officials are concerned a blanket pardon for desertion between 1939-45 would cause major issues for other soldiers court martialled for going Awol.

Mr Shatter, who has been pressed on the issue in the Dail, is awaiting the advice of the Attorney General Maire Whelan.

"This is a very complicated issue and covers a wider range of individuals than those who deserted to join the British Army during World War II," the Department of Defence said.

The 4,983 deserters were dismissed under the Emergency Powers (No 362) Order 194, as the wartime was known as the Emergency in neutral Ireland.

The Department added: "Having regard to the wider dimensions of the issue, including for those who were actually tried by Court Martial for desertion during the Emergency and thereafter, the matter has been referred to the Attorney General's Office for advice.

"The matter will require some further research by that office and detailed consideration of the wider implications of any proposed course of action."

Sinn Fein is expected to support calls for the pardons, which has already been backed by members of the junior coalition Labour Party. The IRA in the 1940s publicly declared they would welcome a Nazi invasion as liberation.

Deserters were blacklisted through the order - what became known as the starvation order - were barred from state jobs, refused military pensions and faced widespread discrimination.

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