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Saturday 27 May 2017

Military chiefs 'baffled' by BBC story about Army deserters

Graham Clifford and Mark O'Regan

IRISH Army deserters who fought with the British during World War II are not currently being considered for a pardon.

The BBC had claimed yesterday that the Irish Government "would take action" on the matter in the coming months. But a statement from the Department of Defence contradicted this, saying Minister Alan Shatter was baffled by the story.

The minister has instead sought the advice of the Attorney General amid the campaign for the pardoning of an estimated 5,000 Irish soldiers who deserted the Irish Army to fight with the Allies against Hitler.

But a final decision on the matter is not expected soon.

The BBC programme quoted Senator Mary Ann O'Brien as saying: "It is very much foremost on his (Mr Shatter's) agenda and he said that we will hear from him at the end of the first quarter of 2012."

Some of these Irishmen took part in major campaigns, such as the D-Day landings. However, on their return to Ireland, they were dismissed from the Army, denied all pay and pension rights and banned from any employment paid for by the State for seven years.

Today at 12.30pm, a documentary called 'Face The Facts -- Deserters Deserted' will air on BBC Radio 4, featuring interviews with some of those Irish soldiers who fought in the British army during the war.

According to the documentary, the soldiers on their return to Ireland were put on a special list with their names circulated to every government department, town hall and train station -- plus other possible locations where they may have sought work. Now, a number of TDs and senators are lcampaigning to have them pardoned.

Among them is Labour TD Gerald Nash, who told the programme: "What happened to them was vindictive and not only a stain on their honour but on the honour of Ireland."

Archives

Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Sean McCann, the Defence Forces' Chief of Staff, has launched a new website -- militaryarchives.ie -- which will help historians and members of the public trace the involvement of family members in Ireland's military affairs during a critical period in our history.

By March, it is planned to publish 36,000 pages of witness statements online -- digitised and word-searchable -- relating to key military events for the period 1913-1921.

The project is being carried out in conjunction with the National Archives of Ireland.

According to a Defence Forces spokesman: "It will provide a major and never-before-seen insight into the 1916 Rising and War of Independence."

Booking a place in the reading room of the Military Archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines, Dublin, to view the offline collections can be arranged on 01 804 6457.

Irish Independent

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