Sinn Fein has voted in favor of a pardon for Irish soldiers who deserted to fight with the British Army in the Second World War.
The Republican party supported the motion at the Northern Ireland Assembly calling for an apology and a pardon for those Irishmen who fought with Britain against Hitler’s Germany.
The Republic’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter is currently considering the apology and pardon for the near 6,000 soldiers who deserted the Irish Army to fight in the war.
A motion in support of the pardon was passed unanimously at the Northern Assembly when Sinn Fein joined the SDLP and Alliance Party deputies in supporting a DUP motion which condemned the treatment by the Irish government of the 5,700 deserters.
After the war, many of those who had deserted were placed on an official blacklist which banned them from jobs, benefits, or pensions.
DUP deputy Peter Weir said it is time for a pardon. “I want to show the solidarity of the Northern Ireland Assembly to a very good campaign which has been put forward by people in the Irish Republic to try and get a pardon and indeed honour and recognition for those brave men and women who served the Irish Republic in the Second World War against fascism,” he said.
“This was very much an abuse of human rights. These were people who were denied employment and welfare which in many cases were enforced with starvation orders where families went hungry as a result of their commitment to the British army.
“I think this is an historic injustice which needs to be embraced.”
Irish senator Mary Ann O’Brien is leading the calls for a pardon in the Republic and has welcomed the vote.
“We are lucky we are not Germany here, because we have to remember that these men deserted the Irish army to join the British army to fight for all of us, for our democracy and our future and for the freedom of Europe,” she stated.
“They came back here to find no hope of employment, there was terrible poverty but they were literally blacklisted.
“I can tell you something worse if they were unlucky enough to have been killed, their children would possibly have ended up in an orphanage as the poverty would have been such the widow would not have been allowed any allowance as she too was blacklisted.
“The child was tarnished with special letters after his or her name when it went into the orphanage so the orphanage would know it was the child of a deserter, so it would get special treatment.”