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Soldiers branded deserters pardoned
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Thread: Soldiers branded deserters pardoned

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Default Soldiers branded deserters pardoned

    The Irish Government will pardon 5,000 soldiers branded deserters and blacklisted for fighting for Britain against Nazi Germany.
    Justice and Defence Minister Alan Shatter apologised to the former troops, who were dismissed en masse under special powers introduced during the Second World War.
    Officials were concerned a blanket pardon for desertion between 1939-45 would cause major issues for other soldiers court martialled for going awol.
    Mr Shatter, who regarded the soldiers as idealists, told the Dail in Dublin that people's understanding of history has matured and that it was time for understanding and forgiveness.
    "On behalf of the State, the Government apologises for the manner in which those members of the Defence Forces who left to fight on the Allied side during World War II, 1939 to 1945, were treated after the war by the State," said Mr Shatter.
    "The Government recognises the value and importance of their military contribution to the Allied victory and will 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."
    Paddy Reid - whose father Paddy signed up under age to fight for Britain and was one of the first to desert - said the decision was a relief.
    The young soldier had fought the Japanese in 1944 at Kohima ridge as they tried to invade India. Mr Reid, 62, said he had finally cleared his father's name some 25 years after his death.
    The 4,983 deserters were dismissed under the Emergency Powers (No 362) Order 194, as the wartime was known as the Emergency in neutral Ireland.
    Deserters were blacklisted through the order - what became known as the starvation order - and were barred from state jobs, refused military pensions and faced widespread discrimination.
    Last edited by downwithpeace; 06-13-2012 at 02:12 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Dublin, Ireland

    Default Re: Soldiers branded deserters pardoned

    Not sure I am entirely as convinced as Minister Shatter that these men were all "idealists", although some of them were beyond doubt. It is more the case, perhaps, that military service was an established tradition in many parts of Ireland and, for young men orientated to military service, fighting in a major war is likely to have more attraction than policing Ireland's "State of Emergency".

    Notwithstanding the good relations now obtaining between Ireland and the UK, and the fact that the actions of those who volunteered for service in the WW2 British Forces who were not, at the time, members of the Irish Defence Forces would I believe generally be approved of here, there is definitely some ambivalence in the attitude to those who deserted from the Free State Army to fight for Britain. The fact that they did desert their country's service in a time of general war does prey on the mind of many, even now, and I wonder whether the Government would have taken this step without Minister Shatter's typically forceful personal intervention.

    For myself, I am glad the Government is to issue a general pardon. Whatever their motivation, the men in question did make a contribution (and one suspects, in view of their military training, a disproportionately strong one) to a cause (just to be unhistorical for a moment) of which I like to think I would have approved. It is not as if they were not punished. Postwar "blacklisting" may not seem like much of a punishment to some non-Irish members but, when one considers the limited employment opportunities available in postwar Ireland, at least up to the late-1960s, blacklisting from such posts was a very serious matter, and basically faced the listed ones with the alternative of barely surviving hand-to-mouth in their own country, or emigrating. While I cannot say that I am entirely comfortable with wiping away the mark of desertion, on balance, I think this was a good decision.

    Best regards, JR.

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