EPO 362

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Emergency Powers (No. 362) Order 1945 or EPO 362 (Statutory Rules and Orders No. 198 of 1945) was an Irish ministerial order which penalised members of the Irish Defence Forces who had deserted since the beginning of the Emergency proclaimed at the start of World War II, during which the state was neutral. The order deprived those affected of pension entitlements and unemployment benefits accrued prior to their desertion, and prohibited them from employment in the public sector for a period of seven years. Most of those affected had deserted to join the armed forces of belligerents: in almost all cases those of the Allies, and mainly the British Armed Forces.

The order was made on 8 August 1945 by Éamon de Valera as Taoiseach in the then Government, using power granted to the government under the Emergency Powers Act 1939 passed on the outbreak of the War. It was revoked with effect from 1 August 1946,[1] a month before the 1939 act lapsed; but it was in effect continued by section 13 of the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946.[2] While some deserters had been court-martialled by the time the order was issued, most were abroad: some still on active service, others demobilised but afraid to return. For such people, the order forestalled any court-martial or consequent punishment. The order only applied to members of the Army Reserve or who had enlisted for the duration of the Emergency; pre-war soldiers who deserted remained liable to court-martial.[3] Canny lists four motivations for the order: as positive discrimination for those who had remained in the Defence Forces; to deter future desertions; to allow deserters to return to Ireland; and to provide a simpler, cheaper alternative to courts-martial.[3] A list of personnel affected by the order was maintained by the government; it was published in 2011.[4] Bernard Kelly has called the order "a highly pragmatic piece of political calculation".[5]

On 18 October 1945, T. F. O'Higgins proposed in the Dáil, seconded by Patrick McGilligan, that the order be annulled, and dubbed it the starvation order because of the hardship imposed.[6] Richard Mulcahy objected that only enlisted men were covered, not officers.[6][7] Matthew O'Reilly argued the order's penalties were in fact more lenient than those to which deserters would otherwise have been subject under military law.[6] Canny states that in practice those covered by the order were more severely treated than those already arrested and tried.[7] O'Higgins' motion was defeated.[6]

In the 2000s a campaign began for pardons for those who deserted to join the Allied forces.[8][9] The Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Act 2013 provided an amnesty rather than a pardon, because the Constitution of Ireland provides that a pardon can only be granted individually by the President.[10][11] The amnesty covered 4,634 people affected by the 1945 order or the 1946 act,[5] and about 2,500 others who had been court-martialled or prosecuted in court.[12] Michael Kennedy of the Royal Irish Academy has called for study of the motives and backgrounds of those who deserted, noting that desertion was highest in units near the Irish border.[13]


  • Department of the Taoiseach (8 August 1945). "Emergency powers (no. 362) order 1945" (PDF). Government publications. Dublin: Stationery Office. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  • Canny, Liam (1998–99). "Pariah Dogs: Deserters from the Irish Defence Forces Who Joined the British Armed Forces during 'The Emergency'". Studia Hibernica (30): 231–249. JSTOR 20495095. 


  1. ^ Department of the Taoiseach (29 March 1946). "Emergency powers (no. 362) order 1945 (revocation) order 1946" (PDF). Dublin: Stationery Office. Retrieved 16 May 2017. 
  2. ^ "Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946, Section 13". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Canny 1999, p.246
  4. ^ List of personnel of the Irish Defence Forces dismissed for desertion during the National Emergency. Lewes: Naval & Military. 2011. ISBN 9781845748883. OCLC 794817291. 
  5. ^ a b Kelly, Bernard (September–October 2011). "Dev's treatment of Irish army deserters: vindictive or pragmatic?". History Ireland. 19 (5). 
  6. ^ a b c d "Emergency Powers (362) Order, 1945 —Motion to Annual". Dáil Éireann debates. 18 October 1945. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Canny 1999, p.247
  8. ^ Waite, John (28 December 2011). "Why Irish soldiers who fought Hitler hide their medals". Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  9. ^ Geoghehan, Peter (5 January 2012). "Sinn Fein backs pardons for Irish who joined British Army". The Scotsman. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  10. ^ "Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Act 2013". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Continued)". Dáil Éireann debates. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2014. Deputies will have noticed the Bill provides for an amnesty for those convicted of desertion or being absent without leave, rather than a pardon as was originally envisaged by Government. This change has been made for technical reasons and is in line with legal advice provided to me during the drafting process by the Attorney General to the effect that a pardon would require that each case be individually processed, a situation that would clearly not be possible in practical terms. 
  12. ^ Williams, Paul (7 May 2013). "Shatter finally brings in amnesty for deserters who fought Nazis". Irish Independent. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  13. ^ Kennedy, Michael (17 June 2012). "Time to ask questions about Irish army deserters during World War II". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 28 October 2014.