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Time running out to pardon war veterans

In a written reply to a request to pardon the Irish Defence Forces soldiers who deserted during World War Two to fight against the Nazis, Defence Minister Alan Shatter made three important points.

He rightly pointed out that nothing should be said that devalues the loyalty and service given by the Defence Force members who served within Ireland. He also accepted that many of those who deserted did so out of idealism to protect freedom and democracy. And he accepts that if the allies had lost the war, Ireland would have been invaded.

I'm heartened that Mr Shatter is "giving active consideration to the matter" of pardons. But time is rapidly running out. The health of many has deteriorated and if we are to see the few surviving veterans pardoned this side of the grave we need to act now.

This morning Con Murphy told me, again, how wonderful it would feel if he could be pardoned before he dies. And 90-year-old Dubliner Phil Farrington, who gained his understanding of the issues when he walked through the gates of Belsen concentration camp, shares that sentiment.

Hopefully, Mr Shatter's comments mean that we can now move on from political/legal debate -- which leaves the issue of compassion and humanity. Is it asking too much of society to pardon a few elderly men, and allow them to wear their medals and visit Islandbridge on Remembrance Day to mourn their comrades?

Robert Widders
Pardons Campaign Bristol, England

Irish Independent