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Dublin: 3°C Monday 19 April 2021

Govt apologises for treatment of Irish WWII veterans

Defence Forces members who fought with the Allies in WWII were persecuted in Ireland for desertion.

Image: Photocall Ireland

THE MINISTER FOR Defence Alan Shatter is to introduce legislation this year which will formally provide an amnesty to Irish citizens who absented themselves from duty with the Defence Forces to fight for the Allies in World War II.

“The government apologises for the manner in which those men of the Defence Forces were treated after the war by the state,” Shatter said in the Dáil this evening.

Irish soldiers were persecuted for deserting the Irish Defence Forces and fighting with the Allied forces against Hitler. Soldiers were immediately dismissed from the Defence Forces under Emergency Power Order 32 introduced by Eamon de Valera’s government.

The dismissal included a ban from state employment for seven years and blocked their Defence Forces pay and pension rights.

“Individuals were not given a chance to explain their absence,” Shatter said in the Dáil this evening. “No distinction was made between those who fought on the Allied side for freedom and democracy, and those who absented themselves for other reasons.”

“In the almost 73 years since the outbreak of World War II, our understanding of history has matured. We can reevaluate actions taken long ago free from the constraints that bounded those directly involved and without questioning or revisiting their motivations.

“It is time for understanding and forgiveness,” he said, and for the contribution made by Irish soldiers to the Allied effort to be recognised and their rejection understood.

“The Government recognises the value and importance to the State” of all the works performed by all members of the Defence Forces during World War II. However, Shatter insisted that “the loyalty of the Defence Forces is essential” and “especially at a time of crisis”.

The minister said that the legislation will not undermine “the general principle regarding desertion” and will not give rise “to any liability of any nature on the part of the state”.

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