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Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter T.D., welcomes enactment by the Oireachtas of the
Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Bill 2012.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Mr. Alan Shatter T.D., today welcomed the enactment by the Oireachtas of all stages of the Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Bill 2012. The Bill will now go to the President for signature.

On 12 June 2012 the Government, by way of an Announcement by the Minister for Defence to Dáil Éireann, apologised for the manner in which those members of the Defence Forces who left to fight on the Allied side during World War II were treated after the War by the State. As part of the Announcement the Government also committed to introducing legislation to grant a pardon/amnesty to those who absented themselves from the Defence Forces, without leave or permission, to fight on the Allied side.

In addressing the question of desertion during World War II, the Government acknowledged that the War gave rise to circumstances that were grave and exceptional. Members of the Defence Forces left their posts at that time to fight on the Allied side against tyranny and, together with many thousands of other Irish men and women, played an important role in defending freedom and democracy. Those who fought on the Allied side also contributed to protecting the State’s sovereignty and independence and democratic values.

The enactment by the Oireachtas of the Bill, gives effect to the commitments given in the Government’s announcement of June 2012.

Welcoming the enactment of the Bill, the Minister said,
“The enactment of this Bill sends an important message to those people surviving, and the relatives of those that have since passed on. That message is “you can be proud of your contribution, or your relative’s contribution, in the fight against tyranny and that this contribution is now being acknowledged by this State”. It is important as we look to the commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the commencement of the Great War and the 75th anniversary of the Second World War, in 2014. It is important to the memory of all those who served and who died in these conflicts, those surviving, and the relatives of those that have since passed on.”

The Minister went on to say that “This Bill is bringing out of the shadows and into the daylight a crucial part of the complex history of our State, of families in the State and of individual citizens. It is estimated that over 60,000 citizens of the then Free State and in the region of 100,000 who resided on this Island fought against Nazi tyranny during the Second World War. For too long in this State we failed to acknowledge their courage and their sacrifice and for too long their contribution was airbrushed out of official Irish history as taught in our schools and at third level. In recent years this has changed and the role played by them has been documented and written about. That is as it should be. I hope this Bill provides a statutory foundation to ensure they are never again ignored or forgotten in narratives covering the Ireland of 1939 to 1945.”

Speaking in relation to the Bill the Minister said “For the small number of survivors, I hope the passage of this legislation affords them the recognition they deserve. I know for the families of those who have passed on, this is an important day in their lives and in their family history.”

The Bill as enacted provides for the granting of an amnesty and apology to those members of the Defence Forces who served with forces fighting on the Allied side during World War II and who were subsequently found guilty by a military tribunal or who were dismissed from the Defence Forces pursuant to the provisions of the Emergency Powers (No. 362) Order 1945. In addition, it also provides an immunity from prosecution, to those who were, or who still are, liable to be prosecuted for, desertion or being absent without leave.


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