13 June 2012

WWII deserters to get pardon from Irish Government

Despite Eire's neutrality about 60,000 men and women from Eire fought in the British armed forces.People like my father who joined the RAF in 1941 with a doctored birth certificate that showed him to be 18 rather than 15 suffered no consequences. But the four and a half thousand men who deserted the Irish army to join the struggle against Naziism faced a vindictive punishment.
In August 1945, the government summarily dismissed soldiers who had absented themselves during the war and disqualified them for seven years from holding employment or office remunerated from the state's central fund. This move created considerable hardship for many of those who in the scheme of things did the right thing.

Yesterday Irish justice minister Alan Shatter told the Irish parliament that the government apologises for the way the deserters were treated  after the second world war. Mr Shatter said that the government would introduce legislation "to grant a pardon and amnesty to those who absented themselves from the defence forces without leave or permission to fight on the allied side".

During the second world war, the Irish defence forces had approximately 42,000 serving personnel. Over the course of the war, it was estimated that more than 7,000 members deserted. Of these, about 2,500 personnel returned to their units or were apprehended and were tried by military tribunal.
More than 4,500 deserters were the subject of dismissal under the Emergency Powers Order. Individuals were not given a chance to explain their absence.

After the war, Eamon de Valera's government published a blacklist of all those who deserted. Anyone who was mentioned in the blacklist book was banned from getting a job in the Irish public services.

Tuesday's pardon is a great relief for the families of those who died, removing the stigma that they have carried for nearly 70 years. It is believed that around 100 of the deserters are still alive.

Once could dismiss this as a meaningless gesture given tht the vast majority of the deserters are now dead but in my view this is something that should have been done a long time ago. On the other hand better late than never.


Kay Dennison said...

May I say that it's about freakin' (or insert proper Anglo-Saxon barbarism) time?

jams o donnell said...

Agreed Kay!