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Shatter says State failed to acknowledge 'courage and sacrifice' of World War II veterans

The Minister for Justice said that the Irish who fought with the Allies during WWII had “fought against Nazi tyranny”.

Founder of the Irish Soldiers Pardons Campaign WW2 Peter Mulvaney (left) pictured with Harry Callan who was a POW in 1941 (file photo).
Founder of the Irish Soldiers Pardons Campaign WW2 Peter Mulvaney (left) pictured with Harry Callan who was a POW in 1941 (file photo).
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Alan Shatter said that those who fought with the Allied forces during World War II could be proud of their contribution.

Shatter said that he welcomed the enactment of the Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Bill 2012, saying that it sent an “important message to those people surviving, and the relatives of those that have since passed on.”

The Oireachtas today enacted all stages of the bill. It will now be sent to President Higgins for his signature.

Speaking of the “fight against tyranny”, Shatter said it was important that the role of those who fought was recogised “as we look to the commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the commencement of the Great War and the 75th anniversary of the Second World War, in 2014.”

It is important to the memory of all those who served and who died in these conflicts, those surviving, and the relatives of those that have since passed on.

The bill, once signed into law, will grant an amnesty to those members of the Defence Forces who served with forces fighting on the Allied side during World War II.

It will also offer an apology for the way they were treated subsequently when they were found guilty by a military tribunal or dismissed from the Defence Forces.

Commenting on today’s progress, Shatter said:

This Bill is bringing out of the shadows and into the daylight a crucial part of the complex history of our State, of families in the State and of individual citizens. It is estimated that over 60,000 citizens of the then Free State and in the region of 100,000 who resided on this Island fought against Nazi tyranny during the Second World War.
For too long in this State we failed to acknowledge their courage and their sacrifice and for too long their contribution was airbrushed out of official Irish history as taught in our schools and at third level. In recent years this has changed and the role played by them has been documented and written about. That is as it should be.
I hope this Bill provides a statutory foundation to ensure they are never again ignored or forgotten in narratives covering the Ireland of 1939 to 1945. For the small number of survivors, I hope the passage of this legislation affords them the recognition they deserve. I know for the families of those who have passed on, this is an important day in their lives and in their family history.

Read: Ireland’s World War II veterans move one step closer to amnesty >

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Paul Hyland

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