Belfast Telegraph

Pardon call for anti-Nazi fighters

Granting a pardon to Second World War soldiers from the Irish Republic who were branded deserters for joining the British Army would further improve cross-border relations in Ireland, the Stormont Assembly has been told.

The Dublin government is considering whether to officially exonerate the 5,000 troops from the Irish forces who left to fight against Nazi Germany.

With Ireland remaining neutral during the conflict, the soldiers who left were vilified by the state on their return.

The 4,983 so-called deserters were blacklisted through a parliamentary order - what became known as the starvation order - which saw them barred from certain jobs, refused military pensions and facing widespread discrimination.

The Republic's Justice and Defence Minister Alan Shatter is examining the issue in Dublin and is awaiting the advice of the Attorney General Maire Whelan.

Across the border in Belfast, Assembly members from all the main parties, including Sinn Fein, backed a call for a pardon.

Democratic Unionist Peter Weir, whose party proposed a motion supporting the pardon campaign, said he did not want to criticise the current Irish administration, but instead adopt a positive spirit of persuasion.

"I believe it is important to show solidarity with those involved in the campaign to secure not just a pardon for these soldiers, but to actively have their service honoured," he said.

The North Down MLA added: "Resolution of this issue would be another positive step forward in the improvement of relations between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

"As the number of direct veterans diminishes with each passing year, it is important that those who remain, and their families, would finally see this wrongdoing put right."

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