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Irish members of the British army during the second world war Photo by: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corb

Irish Government apologizes for treatment of soldiers who returned from Second World War

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Irish members of the British army during the second world war Photo by: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corb

It's taken almost seventy years but the Irish government has finally  apologized for its treatment of Irish soldiers who deserted to fight for the Allied Forces against Hitler's Nazi Germany.

According to Journal.ie, Irish Defense Minister Alan Shatter will shortly introduce legislation that will formally provide an amnesty to the Irish citizens who absented themselves from duty from the Irish Defense Forces to fight for the Allies during World War II.

'The government apologizes for the manner in which those men of the Defense Forces were treated after the war by the state,' Minister Shatter told the Irish parliament on Monday.

Upon return to Ireland after the war Irish soldiers found themselves dismissed and persecuted for deserting the Irish Defense Forces to fight with the Allies. Emergency Power Order 32 introduced by Eamon de Valera’s Fianna Fail government led to their immediate dismissal, and thereafter they discovered they were also included in a blanket ban from state employment for seven years as well as blocked from their Defense Forces pay and pension rights.

'Individuals were not given a chance to explain their absence,' Shatter told his colleagues in the Irish parliament. '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,' Shatter said, insisting that the contribution made by brave Irish soldiers to the Allied effort to be recognized and their rejection understood.

Minister Shatter clarified 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.'

It is estimated that up to 4,500 soldiers left the Defense Forces during the Second World War without returning to their Irish units.

Many of them joined the British Army and it is estimated that about 100 of the deserters are still alive.

The governments pardon will come as a great relief to all who died and their families, since it removes the stigma that they have endured for nearly 70 years. The move has also been seen as another step in the improvement of relations between Ireland and Britain.

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