Irish army deserters and the morality of neutrality

History Ireland Hedge School  Wednesday, 16 May at 7.30pm

( The seminar room is open from 7pm and it is advisable to come early to get a seat )

All welcome     No booking required

Panel discussion with Professor Brian Girvin (University of Glasgow), Dr Michael Kennedy (Executive Editor of the Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy), Professor Geoffrey Roberts (UCC) and Professor Eunan O'Halpin (TCD).

Pardon or punishment: Ireland’s WW2 deserters and the morality of neutrality

It was called ‘Ireland’s list of shame’. It was the blacklist of 4,983 men who deserted from the Irish Army during World War 2. An estimated half of this number went on to join the British Army and fight against Nazi Germany, many of whom were decorated for bravery. Many others never joined the Allies and no one knows what they did after deserting. Some probably got war-time jobs in England and Northern Ireland.

In 1945 Emergency Powers Order 362 ruled that returning Irish Army deserters were to be banned from state jobs for seven years and to lose pay, pension and unemployment benefits they might have qualified for had they remained.

In recent years these penalties against deserters have been questioned, on the grounds that fighting against Fascism outweighed the crime of deserting the Irish Army. A campaign has emerged to secure their pardon on the grounds they were denied due legal process. The sub-text of this debate has tended to weight the fight against Fascism against the morality of Irish neutrality in World War 2.

It is thought that about 100 of those on the EPO 362 list who definitely joined the British forces are still alive. Is it worth seeking pardon for such a small number? Should one pardon everyone, including the ones who never fought at all? Had Ireland a right to be neutral and to penalise deserters from its defence forces at a time of national peril?

Biographies of speakers:

Brian Girvin is Professor of Politics at the University of Glasgow and is author of The Emergency: Neutral Ireland 1939-45 and Nationalism and the politics of national identity since 1945.
Michael Kennedy is executive editor of the Royal Irish Academy’s Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series and author of Ireland and The League of Nations 1919-46. He previously lectured in Modern and Irish History at Queen’s University Belfast
Geoff Roberts is Associate Professor of History and International Relations at University College Cork whose most recent book was Stalin’s Cold Warrior: V.M. Molotov and the Making of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1939-56.
Eunan O’Halpin is Professor of Contemporary Irish History at Trinity College Dublin whose publications include Defending Ireland: The Irish state and its enemies since 1922.

Irish army deserters and subject of neutralityIrish army deserters and subject of neutrality

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NLI Reference: CLON55
NLI Reference: CLON55
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