Pardons at last for Irish soldiers who fought Nazis

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A PARDON for thousands of Irish soldiers who joined the British to fight Nazi Germany will help make amends for the shameful way they were treated after the Second World War, Dublin’s justice minister Alan Shatter said.

The Irish government will today enact legislation to grant an amnesty to the former troops – who were blacklisted and branded deserters at home.

Ahead of the historic move, Mr Shatter said tens of thousands of Irish people put their lives at risk during the global conflict in the fight against fascism and tyranny.

“The bill is being enacted in recognition of the courage and bravery of those individuals court martialed or dismissed from the defence forces who fought on the Allied side to protect decency and democracy during World War II,” he said.

Mr Shatter said the pardon would make an important difference to thousands of families in Ireland and goes some way to right the wrongs of the past.

“Unfortunately, many of the individuals whose situation is addressed in this bill did not live to see the day that this state finally acknowledged the important role that they played in seeking to ensure a free and safe Europe,” he added.

Mr Shatter has already apologised to the ex-soldiers, who were dismissed en masse from the Irish Army under special powers introduced during the Second World War, known as the Emergency in neutral Ireland.

The bill provides for the granting of an amnesty and immunity from prosecution to 5,000 Irish soldiers who fought with the Allies. They had been found guilty by a military tribunal at the time of going awol.

Special powers saw the deserters barred from state jobs, refused military pensions and faced with discrimination.