Bill granting amnesty to World War II ‘deserters’ passes committee stage

Soldiers who left Defence Forces to fight on Allied side granted immunity from prosecution under proposals

World War Two graves in Normandy, France. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

World War Two graves in Normandy, France. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 16:22

A Bill offering a pardon and immunity from prosecution to soldiers who deserted the Defence Forces to fight on the Allied side in World War II has moved a step closer after passing committee stage.

The Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Bill 2012 was considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality yesterday.

Minister for Defence Alan Shatter was present for the brief meeting at which committee chairman David Stanton TD (Fine Gael) said two amendments to the Bill had been ruled out of order.

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Mr Stanton said the Bill offered an immunity from prosecution to those who served on the Allied side and were subsequently found guilty of desertion by a military tribunal.

He said the same applied to soldiers still liable to be prosecuted for desertion or being absent without leave and to those dismissed from the Defence Forces.

The Government last summer apologised for the way the soldiers were treated after the war.

About 7,000 people were deemed to have deserted the Defence Forces during the war, with some 5,000 of those leaving to fight with the Allied forces. About 100 of these people are still alive.

After the war the names of those who deserted were published; they were summarily dismissed from the Defence Forces and they were refused jobs in the public service for seven years and were not given a chance to explain their absence.