28 November 2005

Outrage at refusal to pardon shot war deserters

Irish Independent

Lorna Reid
28 November 2005
Edinburgh

IRISH politicians have slammed the "hypocrisy" of the British government in refusing to pardon 26 Irish soldiers who were shot for desertion in World War I.

And they have asked Northern Secretary Peter Hain to press his government to grant full pardons to the men who were "shot at dawn" for either deserting their posts or failing to follow orders.

The call came last night at the opening of the British-Irish Inter Parliamentary Body meeting in Edinburgh from both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

FG senator Brian Hayes said the 26 Irishmen who had volunteered for service in the British Army were shot for offences which had since been scrapped.

"The British government is currently giving an amnesty for IRA members but they won't provide pardons for these soldiers and this is absolute hypocrisy," said Mr Hayes.

"These soldiers came from North and South and this is a campaign of reconciliation."

Mr Hayes said the Irish Government had a dossier on the 26 soldiers and immediate action should be taken to grant them this pardon "for the sake of their families and relatives".

FF senator Pascal Mooney agreed that Mr Hain should make it his policy to grant these pardons in the ongoing spirit of reconciliation.

Mr Hain will address the conference today and will also be questioned on a proposed smoking ban for the North.

He will also be asked to outline his timetable for lifting the suspension of the devolved institutions in the North.

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