Ireland’s current Minister for Defense is Alan Shatter and today he let the Dáil that the Government of Ireland apologizes for the manner in which the ‘deserters’ were treated by the State after the war.
He said the Government recognizes the value and importance of their military contribution to the Allied victory in World War II.
Up to 4,500 soldiers fled from the Defense Forces during the Second World War and did not return to their Irish units.
Many of them joined the British Army.
After the war, the Prime Minister of Ireland, De Valera, had the Government publish a list of those who deserted.
Anyone who were mentioned in this book were barred from applying for a public service job at any level.
Today it is estimated that about 100 of the deserters may still be alive.
This evening’s pardon is a great relief for those who died and their families removing the stigma that they have carried for nearly 70 years.
It is also viewed as another step in the improvement of relations between Ireland and Britain.
However, a small number of former Defense Force officers have criticised the pardons.
History of Ireland’s policy of neutrality during WWII
The policy of Irish neutrality during World War II was adopted by the Oireachtas (parliament of Ireland) at the instigation of Éamon de Valera, the Taoiseach upon the outbreak of hostilities in Europe. It was maintained throughout the conflict, in spite of several air raids from Nazi Germany. De Valera refrained from joining either the Allies or Axis powers. While the possibility of both a German or a British invasion were discussed in the Dáil, de Valera’s ruling party, Fianna Fáil, supported his policy for the duration of the war. This period is known in Ireland as the Emergency, owing to the wording of the constitutional article employed to suspend normal government of the country.