New legislation would grant amnesty to former Irish troops who deserted and fought with the Allies during World War II. Upon their return home, these troops were called deserters and blacklisted.
The Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity)Bill 2012 would give protection for former soldiers. The bill would grant amnesty and immunity from prosecution to 5,000 Irish soldiers who fought with the Allies. Bill 2012 was first introduced to the Dail in December of 2012.
The Irish Examiner reports officials hope the law will be enacted by the end of July. Defence Minister Alan Shatter is expected to make an official statement when the law is enacted. Shatter had made an apology to the former soldiers earlier. The government apologised in the summer of 2012 for the way soldiers were treated after World War II. Shatter has also called the soldiers idealists and stated that people’s understanding of history has matured. Shatter has said that it is time for understanding and forgiveness.
Ireland was neutral during World War II. The Irish Defence Forces had 42,000 serving personnel during the war and an estimated 7,000 left. Most of them joined the Allied Forces. About 2,500 were either apprehended or returned to their unit and faced a military tribunal.
About 5,000 were dismissed under the Emergency Powers Order in 1945 or the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act in 1946. The Emergency Powers Order enacted automatic dismissal for deserters and those absent without leave. The Order denied soldiers the right to be tried for accused offences and to provide a defence against the allegations.
Special powers later known as the starvation order, barred these men from state jobs and they were refused military pensions. Anti-British feeling was still high and desertion was and still is considered a serious offense. Returning soldiers also faced widespread discrimination within their communities and many of those who had fought decided not to return to Ireland.