No announcement yet.

Ahern wants pardon for 26 soldiers executed during WWI

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Ahern wants pardon for 26 soldiers executed during WWI
    THE Irish Government yesterday called for Britain to issue pardons to the 26 Irishmen who were executed for alleged cowardice, disobedience or desertion during World War I.

    A Department of Foreign Affairs-commissioned report was delivered to the British government via Ireland's embassy in London.

    It investigated the circumstances surrounding the courts-martial and death by firing squad of the Irish soldiers.Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern said Ireland backed a pressure group called the Shot at Dawn Campaign, which argues that the WWI executions were unjust and the men's supposed crimes must be pardoned posthumously.

    British military historians and MPs have been campaigning on the issue of the summary executions for years, insisting that most of those shot were suffering from "shell shock", nervous breakdown or post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Mr Ahern said pardons, even though more than 85 years after the executions, "would not only be of great comfort to the families of the men involved, which is our priority, but would also reflect positively on the already close relationship between Ireland and Great Britain".

    "Irish soldiers condemned to death by courts-martial during WWI represented 8pc of the total, while Irish troops made up only 2pc of British Army numbers at the time," he added.

    A total of 306 soldiers were executed in Britain during the four-year war for military offences.

    Senan Molony

  • #2
    is it right to apply 21st century standards to cases 85 years old? im asking as a rhetorical question btw!
    "Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here...this is the War Room!"


    • #3
      Press Releases
      Press Section
      28 October 2004

      Minister Ahern announces the submission of a Report to the British Government on the twenty-six Irish soldiers ‘Shot at Dawn’ during World War 1

      The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, T.D., today announced that a Report into the courts-martial and execution of twenty-six Irish soldiers by the British Army during World War 1 has been formally submitted to the British Government through the Embassy of Ireland, London. In making this announcement, the Minister said in particular that:
      “Although concerns have been publicly raised by the families of the victims, notable military historians, and many members of Parliament and the public on this sensitive issue for many years, this Report is the first instance in which the courts-martial and execution of the twenty-six Irish soldiers has been extensively evaluated”.

      “The files describe a military system of justice that ignored clear evidence of medical afflictions and extenuating circumstances in favour of the need of the upper ranks to impose an exemplary disciplinarian regime on the rank and file in an effort to deter others from contemplating a similar crime. Executing a soldier in such circumstances must be seen as clearly unjust, and not deserving of the ultimate penalty”.

      The Minister also drew attention to the apparent disparity in the treatment of Irish soldiers. “For so many of those recruited in Ireland to be condemned to death indicates a disciplinary approach markedly harsher than that faced by men from other countries. In fact, the number of Irish soldiers condemned to death by courts-martial during WW1 represents 8% of the total number of condemnations, while the number of Irish troops corresponds to only approximately 2% of the British Army numbers at the time”.

      The Minister concluded by asking the British Government to revisit the issue in a humanitarian and compassionate manner. “As we approach the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, and the world prepares to once again remember those who sacrificed so much during those terrible years of trench warfare, a retrospective action by the British Government to redress the condemnation of those ‘shot at dawn’ would be widely welcomed, both in Ireland and further afield”.

      “The overwhelming level of support in Ireland, across political and religious divides North and South, has convinced me that a resolution to this matter would not only be of great comfort to the families of the men involved – which is our priority – but would also reflect positively on the already close relationship between Ireland and Great Britain, especially in the context of the respective attitudes toward the First World War”.


      Note for Editors 1. The Shot at Dawn (Ireland) Campaign, coordinated by Mr Peter Mulvany, lobbied the Irish Government to support their call to the British Government to pardon retrospectively 306 British soldiers executed during World War 1 for military offences. Twenty-six of these soldiers are believed to be from Ireland, and the offences under which they were sentenced to death and subsequently executed were repealed in 1928 and 1930.

      2. A thorough review of the issue identified a number of supportive points for the objectives of the Shot at Dawn Campaign. The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen, T.D., announced Government support for the Campaign on 14 November 2003. A meeting at official level with the British Ministry of Defence subsequently took place in London on 6 February 2004 to discuss the matter with a view to finding a satisfactory resolution.

      3. It was agreed at this meeting that the British side would forward the courts-martial files of the twenty five Irish soldiers in their possession (the other courts-martial file is in the possession of the Canadian authorities), and the Irish side would review these documents and submit an official paper on the matter. The review of these files corroborate the argument in favour of retrospective pardons for the men in question on a number of fronts: - The offences under which each soldier was executed, such as desertion, striking an officer and disobedience, were the subject of much parliamentary discourse as early as 1915, and intensified until 1928 and 1930 when the Government repealed the death penalty for these particular offences. This indicates the level of parliamentary and public uneasiness surrounding these executions at the time of the war, and dispels the notion that today’s standards are being used to judge the past. The closure of the case files of those shot at dawn for 75 years by the British military also indicates an awareness of the sensitivity which was afforded the matter in the aftermath of the war.

      - The courts-martial files indicate a trend among the accused of a lack of even a rudimentary understanding of their rights under military law. The absence of a ‘prisoner’s friend’ in the majority of cases, to safeguard those rights, further undermines the assertion that those facing courts-martial were afforded their legally entitled rights.

      - A comparison of recruitment figures and subsequent death sentences suggests a disparity in the treatment of Irish soldiers in comparison with those from other countries in the British army. For example, the number of men recruited in Ireland was similar to that of New Zealand, however there were ten times the level of condemnations in the Irish Regiments despite the New Zealand regiments being notoriously harsh with discipline.

      - The treatment of the lower ranks at courts-martial, in comparison to officers and higher ranks, indicates a degree of class bias that is incompatible with an impartial system of justice. The treatments meted out to officers and upper echelons tended to be at the lower end of the disciplinary scale, whereas lower ranks were often afforded little, if any, leniency.

      - The revelation that King George V retrospectively pardoned those in the higher ranks both during and after the war following petitions and appeals signed by military personnel with significant influence, further demonstrates this partiality.

      - The case files include some shocking omissions by those presiding at courts-martial with regard to medical ailments and extenuating circumstances. In a number of cases there is clear evidence of ignoring medical conditions and personal circumstances that may have accounted for the actions of the accused, and could reasonably have been interpreted as mitigating factors.

      - The confirmation process presents clear evidence that some soldiers were executed for example, to deter others from committing a similar crime, and not because they deserved their fate. Frequent character references as to the fighting qualities of the accused, although not always recorded, were sufficiently common to assume they hindered the possibility of receiving leniency from those in a position to confirm, or commute, the sentence.

      4. The cross community Bill in the House of Commons in 1999, sponsored by Ian Paisley and John Hume, demonstrates the depth of feeling of both sides of the community in Ireland, north and south, with regard to the treatment of those executed.

      Did anything come of this?
      "Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here...this is the War Room!"


      • #4
        About bloody time too.


        • #5
          I understand other former colonies just pardoned their countrymen themselves, could this be done here?


          • #6
            Originally posted by yellowjacket
            I understand other former colonies just pardoned their countrymen themselves, could this be done here?
            I'd imagine not. My reasoning being that the Irish soldiers were an integral part of the British Army whereas the Canadians, etc were not. But thats just my opinion without any knowledge of the law.
            Say NO to violence against Women

            Originally posted by hedgehog
            My favourite moment was when the
            Originally posted by hedgehog
            red headed old dear got a smack on her ginger head


            • #7
              Thank you bertie!


              • #8
                I'd expect that Groundhog was pretty much correct. The Canadian, South Africans, Aussies and Kiwis all had their own armies, under the Commonwealth of course. We didn't, and thus have no legal rights in that regard.

                Theres also probably a legal point about the fact that the Irish state didn't exist at the time of the 1914-18 war, thus all executive functions, and decisions were taken by the UK Govt, and can only be rescinded by that same body, as per the 1922 Act.


                • #9
                  Presumably Bertie is also pushing for the pardoning of the 280 british soldiers not of Irish extraction who were executed in WW1 also.

                  Or did they deserve? Or just not matter because they were't Irish.

                  Hippocyritcal pirck.
                  Take these men and women for your example.
                  Like them, remember that posterity can only
                  be for the free; that freedom is the sure
                  possession of those who have the
                  courage to defend it.
                  Liberty is being free from the things we don't like in order to be slaves of the things we do like.
                  If you're not ready to die for it, put the word freedom out of your vocabulary.


                  • #10
                    Hippocyritcal pirck
                    Is that something to do with the oath that Doctors take? :wink:

                    Presumably Bertie is also pushing for the pardoning of the 280 british soldiers not of Irish extraction
                    Why would he, thats a matter for their own soverign governments? The 1922 Act set out independence, not an assumption of all powers and responsibilities of the British Empire at that point in time ...


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JAG
                      Presumably Bertie is also pushing for the pardoning of the 280 british soldiers not of Irish extraction who were executed in WW1 also.

                      Or did they deserve? Or just not matter because they were't Irish.

                      Hippocyritcal pirck.
                      Agreeing with Aidan here. He is not Bertie Ahern, Defender of the Innocent and Righter of Injustice. He is Bertie Ahern, An Taoiseach. He is representing people who would have become Irish citizens if they had survived. As for the other 280 British Soldiers, if you feel so bad for them, why don't you write letters to the MPs who may have some local connections to them outlining the stance taken by YOUR government about people from YOUR country and about how perhaps they may want to imitate these actions?