The Government is to pardon over 4,500 former soldiers who deserted the Defence Forces during World War II to fight with the Allied Forces.

Minister for Defence Alan Shatter has told the Dáil that the Government apologises for the manner in which the deserters were treated by the State after the war.

He said the Government recognises the value and importance of their military contribution to the Allied victory.

Up to 4,500 soldiers fled from the Defence Forces during the Second World War and did not return to their Irish units.

Many of them joined the British Army.

After the war, the De Valera Government published a list of those who deserted.

Anyone who was mentioned in this book was banned from getting a public service job at any level.

It is estimated that about 100 of the deserters are still alive.

This evening's pardon is a great relief for those who died and their families removing the stigma that they have carried for nearly 70 years.

It is also viewed as another step in the improvement of relations between Ireland and Britain.

However, a small number of former Defence Force officers have criticised the pardons.