Success, then, for the Irish Soldiers Pardon (WW2) Campaign. I’ve noted previously the historical debate in Dáil Éireann in 1945. Now, as the BBC reports, Defence Minister Alan Shatter has told the Dáil that the Irish government will introduce legislation “to grant a pardon and amnesty to those who absented themselves from the Defence Forces without leave or permission to fight on the Allied side” [added link].
The Irish Times report has more from the Irish Defence Minister’s statement
Pointing out individuals were not given a chance to explain their absence, Mr Shatter added: “No distinction was made between those who fought on the Allied side for freedom and democracy and those who absented themselves for other reasons.
Mr Shatter said that in the time since the outbreak of the second World War “our understanding of history has matured”.
“We can re-evaluate actions taken long ago, free from the constraints that bound those directly involved and without questioning or revisiting their motivations. It is time for understanding and forgiveness.”
The Minister said, at a time of greater understanding of the shared history and experiences of Ireland and Britain, “it is right that the role played by Irish veterans who fought on the Allied side be recognised and the rejection they experienced be understood”.
“To that end, this Government has now resolved to provide a legal mechanism that will provide an amnesty to those who absented themselves from our Defence Forces and fought with the Allied Forces in World War II and to provide a pardon to those who were individually court-martialled.
“This will be achieved without undermining the general principle regarding desertion. The proposed legislation, which I intend to introduce later this year, will provide that the pardon and amnesty does not give rise to any right or entitlement or to any liability on the part of the State.”
The full statement by Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, is available here.
Adds As Stephen Fry pointed out, “history is not abstraction, it is the enemy of abstraction.”