JUSTICE AND DEFENCE Minister Alan Shatter has indicated that thousands of Irish soldiers who deserted from the Defence Forces to fight in World War II will be given a pardon later this year.
Shatter has now received legal advice from the Attorney General on the issue of a potential pardon for an estimated 5,000 Irish soldiers who joined the Allies in World War II and were persecuted upon their return to Ireland.
The issue is the subject of a campaign to have the men pardoned. They were denied all Defence Forces’ pay and pension rights upon their return to Ireland and were prevented from working for the State for a period of seven years.
The so-called ‘starvation orders’ were issued at a time when anti-British sentiment was high in Ireland and the government feared civil unrest unless action was taken against the men, analysts have said.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland Shatter said that the thousands of men who had left to fight for the Allies against Nazi Germany had “contributed to the future of freedom and democracy in Europe”.
He said it was now a time to revisit the issue of pardoning the men, the majority of whom have since died.
“I believe it’s now right that we revisit historically how this issue was dealt with,”he said. “There was a motion passed, which I welcome, in the Stormont parliament this week, supported by all sides, calling for a pardon.”
The Justice Minister said that legal matters needed to be considered and that having received advice from the Attorney General he would be discussing the issue with Cabinet before making a statement later this year.
A number of TDs and Senators have backed the campaign to have the Irish soldiers who deserted pardoned.
Labour TD Gerald Nash has previously said that the behaviour of the government of the day towards the men “is not only a stain on their honour but on the honour of Ireland.”