The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, has welcomed the pardons given by Britain to 26 Irishmen who were executed for military offences during World War I.

Twenty-six Irish soldiers wrongly executed for military offences during the First World War were today formally pardoned by the British Government.

Ninety years after they were shot dead by firing squad for `cowardice and desertion', legislation has been enacted to clear their names.

One case file is marked 'shot for example'.

The move comes after the Shot at Dawn campaign worked for years to prove the volunteers, many of whom joined the army while in their teens, should never have been killed.

Minister Ahern said the pardons showed the men met a fate they did not deserve.

'The legislation enacted by the British Government today recognises that execution was not a fate these young men deserved. This pardon will be formally recorded in their military files,' he said.

Under the legislation 300 servicemen who were executed for military offences while serving with the British army are to be pardoned.

The pardon is intended to remove the dishonour of execution. It does not quash the convictions or sentences and as such does not apply to those convicted of murder.

Speaking in London, where he met emigrant groups, Mr Ahern added 'We raised the issue formally with the British Government through a comprehensive report on the issue in 2004, and we have engaged actively with them since then on finding a resolution.'

Mr Ahern paid tribute to Peter Mulvany, the head of the Shot at Dawn Campaign, for his tireless efforts in ensuring that these men were not forgotten.

The names of the Irishmen who have been pardoned are be added to the Irish National War Memorial Records.

The soldiers are: Privates Albert Smythe and Thomas Cummings (Belfast), 1st Irish Guards; Privates Thomas Hope (Mullingar) and Patrick Joseph Downey (Limerick), Leinster Regiment; Privates Thomas Davis (Ennis) and James Graham (Cork), Royal Munster Fusiliers.
Lance Cpl Peter Sands (Belfast), Riflemen James Crozier (Belfast), John F McCracken (Belfast), James Templeton (Belfast) and Samuel McBride, Royal Irish Rifles.
Privates James Cassidy, Thomas Murphy (Tralee, also known as Hogan), John Wishart (Omagh), Robert Hepple (also known as J Hope) and John Seymour, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers; Privates Joseph Carey (Dublin) and George Hanna (Belfast), Royal Irish Fusiliers.
Private Stephen Byrne (Dublin, also known as M Monaghan), 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers; Private Benjamin O'Connell (Foulksmills), Irish Guards; Private Patrick Murphy (Dublin), Machine Gun Corps; Drivers James Mullany and John Bell (Dublin), Royal Field Artillery; Private Bernard McGeehan (Derry), (Irish) King's Liverpool; Private Arthur Hamilton, Durham Light Infantry.
Private James Wilson (Limerick), who served with the Canadian Infantry.