Belfast Telegraph

Delay in Irish pardon for 5,000 WWII troops branded deserters

By Ed Carty

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 absent without leave.

Mr Shatter, who has been pressed on the issue in the Dail, is awaiting the advice of the Republic's 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 Two," the Department of Defence said.

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

Sinn Fein is expected to support calls for the pardons.

The IRA in the 1940s publicly declared they would welcome a Nazi invasion as liberation.

Deserters were blacklisted and barred from State jobs, refused military pensions and faced widespread discrimination.

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