13 Jun 2012

Ireland pardons soldiers who deserted to fight Hitler

10:50 am on 13 June 2012

The Irish government has pardoned thousands of servicemen who deserted to fight in the British armed forces during the World War II.

Ireland maintained its neutrality throughout the war, saying any other course would have threatened its independence, secured from Britain in 1921.

Some 7000 of its servicemen deserted so they could join the fight against the Nazis.

The Irish government dismissed them all, disqualifying them from state employment for seven years.

Relatives have welcomed the pardon saying the deserters were stigmatised for decades, Reuters reports.

But some former Irish officers say pardoning deserters, whatever the circumstances, undermines the Irish armed forces.