Irish Justice Minister: “a tribute to how far we have come as a society”

As promised by the Irish Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, in June last year, legislation has been passed by Dáil and Seanad providing for the granting of an amnesty and apology for the way the Irish State treated members of its Defence Forces who left to join the Allied Forces during World War II.  I’ve noted previously the historical debate in Dáil Éireann in 1945.  From the Irish Times report

In his closing statement on the Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity Bill 2012) to the Dáil, Mr Shatter said the Bill was an acknowledgement of the harsh treatment such individuals received after World War II and an acceptance of the special circumstances that existed at the time.

The Bill offers an immunity from prosecution to those who served on the Allied side and were subsequently found guilty of desertion by a military tribunal. The same applies to soldiers still liable to be prosecuted for desertion or being absent without leave and to those dismissed from the Defence Forces.

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.

Under legislation enacted in 1949 these people were considered to have deserted the Defence Forces and were dismissed without pension and barred from future State employment and welfare. The names of those who deserted were also published.

Adds  Once again, as Stephen Fry pointed out, “history is not abstraction, it is the enemy of abstraction.”