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History to be made with the enactment of Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Bill 2012

History is expected to be made tomorrow afternoon with the enactment by the Oireachtas of the Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Bill 2012. The Bill provides for the granting of an amnesty and apology to those members of the Defence Forces who absented themselves, without leave or permission, to serve with forces fighting on the Allied side against Germany during World War II.

In anticipation of the enactment of the Bill, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, said “Tens of thousands of Irish people put their lives at risk during World War II in the fight against fascism and tyranny. They included approximately 5,000 members of our Defence Forces who absented themselves without leave or permission and who were either court martialed or simply dismissed from the Defence Forces. Following the Second World War, they were for over 7 years excluded from employment by the State or by any State Body and were essentially treated as outcasts.

“Tomorrow in Dáil Éireann, the Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Bill will complete its enactment through both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Bill is being enacted in recognition of the courage and bravery of those individuals court martialed or dismissed from the Defence Forces who fought on the Allied side to protect decency and democracy during World War II. It gives important statutory expression to the apology given by me on behalf of the State last year for the shameful manner in which they were treated.

“The enactment of this legislation makes an important difference to thousands of families in the State and goes some way to right the wrongs of our past. Unfortunately, many of the individuals whose situation is addressed in this Bill did not live to see the day that this State finally acknowledged the important role that they played in seeking to ensure a free and safe Europe ”.

6 May 2013


Note to the Editors:

At its peak during World War II Irish Defence Forces had approximately 42,000 serving personnel. Over the course of the war, it is estimated that over 7,000 members of the Defence Forces deserted. Of these, circa 2,500 personnel returned to their units or were apprehended and were tried by military tribunal. More than 4,500 deserters were the subject of dismissal under the Emergency Powers (No. 362) Order 1945. In total, it is estimated that approximately 60,000 people from the Republic of Ireland fought in the British Forces (i.e. Army, Navy or Air Force) during World War II.

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