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When 50,000 Irishmen gathered to commemorate the First World War

12 November 2013

12 November 2013

As I wrote last week, I had not thought commemorating the centenary of the First World War need be a matter of controversy. But one of the reasons why it is worth doing – and worth doing properly and on a large scale – is that the First World War is complicated.

Consider the photograph at the top of this post. It was taken on Armistice Day in 1924. In Dublin.

Yes, Dublin. The Union Flag is flown. The National Anthem – ie, God Save the King – is sung. A Celtic Cross is erected on College Green prior to its transportation to France where it would serve as a memorial to the 16th Irish Division. Some reports estimate as many as 50,000 Irishmen attended the commemoration. (There is British Pathe footage of it here). The Irish Times proudly reported that “the display of Flanders poppies was not equalled by any city in the British isles”. 

Commemorations on this scale were not unusual in the 1920s. Two years later some 40,000 Irishmen marched to the Phoenix Park for a service of commemoration beneath the imposing Wellington Monument. (British Pathe were present then, too, and you can watch their footage here.) It is said that some years as many as 500,000 poppies were distributed in Ireland and even if this figure is exaggerated, half as many would still be a number worthy of remark. Even as late as the 1930s, the war was still being remembered. Agreement on a site for the Irish National War Memorial Gardens was finally reached in 1929 and the gardens, at Islandbridge on the Liffey and designed by Edwin Lutyens, were not completed until, as it happens, 1939.

Which is just a means of noting that the history of the First World War  – and the history of its memory – is more complicated than nationalists – of any stripe – would have you believe.

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The poppy and remembrance fell from favour in Ireland, elbowed aside by the rival story of the Easter Rising. A rebellion thought contemptible by most Dubliners became the national epic (in large part thanks to the British government’s obtuse reaction to the events of Easter 1916, a reaction that remains obtuse even if considered within the context of the First World War). But we can see more clearly now even if, paradoxically, also more darkly. This is Ireland, after all.

The commemoration – and, yes, the celebration, – of the Rising’s own centenary will be very different from the celebrations that marked its 50th anniversary in 1966. Forty years of revisionist Irish history has seen to that. Sometimes, these days, you even wonder if Irish history has developed to the stage that the revisionists now need a spot of revising themselves.

But, twenty years ago now, I remember President Mary Robinson attending a service of remembrance commemorating the (southern) Irish volunteers who sailed for France and Flanders. She wore a poppy too, something then almost only available from the British Embassy. And I remember, as well, the controversy that ensued. Newspaper columnists and radio phone-in programmes argued about Robinson’s revisionist provocation. Was this appropriate? Was it seemly? Was it even properly Irish?

The revisionists won. Five years later Robinson’s successor, Mary McAleese was joined by Queen Elizabeth at the unveiling of a new Flanders monument to the Irish fallen. The Irish volunteers, dead and surviving alike, were being written back into Irish history, the beneficiaries of what Professor Roy Foster has called “a more relaxed and inclusive definition of Irishness”.

John Redmond had called for Irishmen to serve “wherever the firing line extends” and thousands, north and south, rallied to the call. A majority, though only a slight one, of them were catholic though this, in truth, reflected economic opportunity as well as martial enthusiasm. Nevertheless, many of them thought they were fighting for Redmond and Home Rule and Irish enlistment rates before 1916, amongst non-agricultural workers, were nearly as enthusiastic as those pertaining in other parts of the British Isles.

That enthusiasm was not restricted to Unionists. In 1919 Joe Devlin, the nationalist MP for West Belfast, declared that the 16th Irish Division’s dead “died not as cowards died, but as soldiers of freedom, with their faces toward the fire, and in the belief that their life-blood was poured out in defence of liberty for the world”. If England’s difficulty was, for some, Ireland’s opportunity there remained many others who saw the struggle for Ireland as a small part of a wider struggle to establish the rights of all small nations. Fighting for Belgium or for Serbia was a proxy for fighting for Ireland.

Perhaps that seems quaint now. The Irish soldiers were not to know what would await them in France. Nor could they foresee how their service overseas would be countermanded by events at home. Nevertheless, when we remember the First World War at all and especially when we consider plans for commemorating its centenary, we might remember that the war was, and is, about rather more than the slaughter of the Somme.

Even when those commemorations are confined to the experiences of the peoples of these islands we might be reminded that they are more complicated than the Ladybird or Blackadder school of history would have you imagine. Irish motives varied. There were some, such as Emmot Dalton, who saw no contradiction between fighting for the British against the Germans and for the IRA against the British. That is part of the story too.

Most of all, however, the remarkably history – and historiography – surrounding the Irish First World War experience is a reminder of how the story of the relationships between the peoples of these islands is a complicated and nuanced one that is ill-served by a simplistic reductionism that splits folk into camps labelled Good and Bad. It is a history that contains multitudes and, being such a matter of nuance, one that is liable to easy misinterpretation. But that it might be so misinterpreted is no reason for failing to make an attempt towards recalling it as it was lived and understood at the time.

No-one celebrates the First World War. How could you? But remembering it, in all its complexity, is one way of helping to understand who we are and how we came to be who we are, wherever we happen to be.


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Show comments
  • Toby Esterházy

    We all know that all these Irish gestures are insincere ones, only to keep NAMA’s Six-County and British assets from being foreclosed or repossessed by the Exchequer, H.M. Treasury and the Bank of England, and the company registrations, banking licences and the FSCS deposit-insurance membership of the insolvent Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks from being revoked.

    • Harry Peters

      So Six-County and British are separate concepts to you? You nationalist dog!

      • Toby Esterházy

        To most in the other Two of the Three Kingdoms, unless they have relations in Ulster, the Six Counties are neither British nor Irish. According to the Romans, Britannia never included Hibernia.

        • Jambo25

          According to the Romans Britannia didn’t include Scotland either so, presumably, in your view, Scotland isn’t British either.

          • Toby Esterházy

            The Province of Britannia for about 20 years covered Lands South of the Antonine Wall between the Clyde and the Forth, in what it is now the Scottish Lowlands. Scotland of course never existed when the Romans were here—only the Welsh Britons and the Picts in Caledonia, and the Scoti in Ulster and in the Inner Hebrides (Dál Riata).

            • Jambo25

              “For about 20 years”. So, presumably the Province of Britannia didn’t cover southern Scotland for the other 350 years of the Roman presence. There are surprisingly large traces of ‘Romanitas’ in southern Scotland. The road that runs over the Dalveen Pass runs over an old Roman culvert bridge at one point. Still in use. The vast bulk of the traces came about in a southern Scotland which was left to it’s own devices with no formal Roman presence but a certain amount of Roman influence.

              You are also correct in noting that there was no state known as Scotland. Neither, of course, was there an England or Britain in the modern sense. Scotland and England, as states, began to emerge in the 10th and 11th centuries. Strangely enough the nascent Scottish state probably slightly predated England.

  • Daniel Maris

    Maybe once Scotland is independent there will be scope for developing a British Isles Federation, a union of equals, given we have so much in common.

    • Harry Peters

      Can we have the Federal Capital in Chester? The Romans planned to do this before they give up on conquering the Isles.

  • HilaryChapman

    Perhaps there’s a case for welcoming Southern Ireland back into the United Kingdom.

  • Daniel Maris

    As the wise man said: never discuss Irish history in any respect whatsoever with anyone who might be interested in Irish history.

    That said, I would note that in 1924 – perhaps Massie doesn’t realise this – the Irish Free State was still part of the British Empire, just like Canada, Australia and South Africa. So use of the Union Flag was not quite so amazing as Massie makes out.

    • terence patrick hewett

      Gorblimey again Daniel: I have never heard that one. But it is perhaps true. I am interested in Irish history for personal reasons as well as academic as I am in Welsh, English and Scottish history. Sometimes it gets quite fraught but in the end we just drink up and get on with it. I could tell you some stories that would make yr hair go white!

  • Dr Rip

    Wearing the poppy ‘did not go out of favour’, Sinn Fein, as well as the more bigoted elements of Fianna Fail and the GAA orchestrated a campaign to abuse and beat poppy sellers and wearers off of the streets of Ireland. This continued throughout the 1930s, was revived again after WWII along with the frequent vandalising of memorials and poppy wreaths in Anglican churchyards. It only became more tolerated during the 1990s peace process when it was seen as a feature of ‘inclusivity’

    Alex Massie, and anyone else interested in a much better qualified account of all this should read the work of the most accomplished and courageous of Irish jounalists, Kevin Myers. He was at the forefront of campaign to reintroduce the truth about the part played in both wars by Irish men and women.

    • Harry Peters

      Agreed. Kevin Myers did sterling work countering the IRA-Fianna Fail mythology that infested Ireland up the 1990s.

  • ChuckieStane

    An interesting article but curiously tailored to suit Alex’s narrative. It is an article generally about the 16th Irish Division, however, no serious comment on the Irish contribution to WWI should fail to mention the 36th Ulster Division. While Redmond’s volunteers signed up to the 16th hoping to be rewarded with Home Rule so too Carson’s UVF signed up hoping for the opposite. A cynical modern observer might conclude the British authorities skilfully exploited both to maximise recruitment. While, as pointed out, “revisionist” history may have airbrushed much of the 16th Irish Division’s story from Irish history, the sacrifice of the 36th remains seared in the psyche of the Ulster Protestant community. The British establishment may have thought only of getting recruitment up whilst conveniently dealing with the Ulster Crisis in the short term, but for the Ulster Protestant community answering the British call was a deal signed in blood. The prospect of betrayal of that deal remains a factor today in unionist politics. Had Britain chosen to recruit across the two communities rather than individually from the two opposing camps by implied but mutually exclusive promises, it would most likely have led to much smaller numbers signing up but it may have been a unifying influence.
    Alex is right – this is complicated, so when Cameron called for “A commemoration that, like the Diamond Jubilee celebrated this year, says something about who we are as a people” is truly was a wildly misjudged and inane remark.

    • Jambo25

      Agree on the 36th Division. I visited the Somme a few year’s ago and, whilst there, visited the Ulster memorial. It has an immediacy: a feeling of continued significance and familial loss missing from many of the other memorials.

  • MikeF

    Yes the execution of the leaders of the Easter Rising helped create a martyrology that became a mainstay of Republican propaganda in succeeding years. But, quite simply, would any combatant power in the First World War or the Second not have done the same to any of their own citizens – and given that Ireland was part of the United Kingdom at the time they were legally British nationals – who collaborated with the enemy by staging an armed uprising against their rule within their own borders? There was absolutely nothing exceptional about British actions at the time however ‘obtuse’ they may appear in hindsight.

    • franklin

      What you consider part of the United Kingdom, Irish people consider a foreign occupation.

      • Howard Benson

        Then they are stupid.

        • franklin

          Really? In 2013 you’re saying that British history in Ireland was entirely based on the consent of the Irish people? Seriously? It wasn’t achieved and maintained by slaughter and repression? That sounds kind of ridiculous to anyone with any kind of grasp of history.

        • Angus McLellan

          Evidently so. In 1795 the notoriously stupid Edmund Burke said of British rule in Ireland that it rested on three orders, “cavalry, infantry and artillery”. Ireland was brought into the Union by the profligate use of armed force, and kept there in much the same way.

      • HJ777

        Do they?

        What evidence have you for that assertion?

      • MikeF

        I’m not talking about what I ‘consider’ to be the case, just what it actually was in law at the time. I could have added that the treatment of the participants in the Easter Rising by the British government was arguably no worse than the suppression of IRA militants by the government of the Irish Free State in the early 1920s. Nor indeed after the Free State became the Republic in the late 30s and the government of Eamon de Valera used to borrow the British state’s hangman to execute IRA men.

        • Pootles

          Indeed, more Irishmen were executed by the Irish state during the Civil War then had been executed by the British state during the War of Independence. Not to mention novel ways of killing republicans – such as chaining them to logs attached to mines. Not that the other side were much better – burying people up to their necks to watch the tide approach…

          • Harry Peters

            References?

            I didn’t think so.

            • Pootles

              Robert Kee (1980), Ireland: A history.
              For the IRA men chained to a log and blown up with a mine, and the Free Stater buried up to his neck to watch the incoming tide (he failed to drown, was dug out, and reburied further out by the IRA), see Richard Bennett (1959), The Black and Tans.

              • Harry Peters

                I stand corrected. 8 IRA men were killed in this incident in Ballyseedy, Kerry. Robert Kee is a good reference. Bennett is not.

                • Pootles

                  Thank you – decent bloke. Yes, Bennett is somewhat out of date (to put it mildly), and rather 1950s in its style of popular history.

            • Jambo25

              Pootles is almost certainly correct. Casualties in the Civil War were probably higher than in the anti-British rebellion. Round about 4,000 as opposed to about 3,000-3,500. Hostage taking, reprisal shootings and assassinations were almost certainly more common as well.

  • HJ777

    An interesting post from Alex Massie and I certainly learned things I didn’t previously know.

    What a refreshing contrast to the idiotic posts of Rod Liddle.

  • Paddy S

    I am an Irish history teacher myself and Irish history has gone through 3 periods since 1922 – from then till 1970 there was an overtly happy celebration of Irish republicanism and man of 1916 (pearse, Macdonagh, connolly), then when the troubles started in 1970-2000 the school of revisionism kicked in which attempted to link sectarian violence and murder of the North with what occurred with events between 1916 and 1923. Then in 2000s onwards there has been a kind of rebalance attacking the revisionist and older position and settling somewhere in between.
    As an Irish patriot I am proud of the Irish soldiers who went to fight fascism in both world wars but I am also proud of my family members who fought for the right to self determination in 1919-1921. British readers need to understand that. Irish history has many narratives, but very few definitive answers or voices…

    • Pootles

      I think many British readers do understand complex historical narratives. Even a passing knowledge of history shows that motives and actions are multi-layered. One point, though, what ‘fascism’ was being fought by Irish soldiers in the Great War ? Fascism as a political movement postdates the Great War, and was, in part, a direct product of the Great War and associated cultural, economic and political changes brought about, or confirmed, by the war.

      • Paddy S

        sorry nationalism…

        • Pootles

          Well, that doesn’t make any sense, because you say that as well as being proud of relatives who fought ‘fascism/nationalism’, you are also proud of relatives who fought for ‘self-determination’, i.e., nationalism. And, it would be very difficult to imagine that the overwhelming majority of men who fought in the British, French, Italian, Serbian etc etc armies in the Great War were not nationalists.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

        Fascism is far better than British Imperialism or it’s American cousin anyway. The idea of “der Nartzis” as the ultimate evil in the world and that it should have been obvious to every man that they must be defeated is pure British war propaganda. They need Hitler the Boogeyman to justify the self-destruction of the British Empire.

        • Pootles

          I’m not sure if much of your post makes sense – the last sentence being particularly odd. However, I haven’t posted anywhere that the British Empire was any particularly marvellous thing. But it must be said that the Nazis do seem to have taken mechanised murder to a new level, only rivalled by the communists of China and the Soviet Union. Were you thinking Ireland might be better off under fascism?

    • terence patrick hewett

      We are joined at the hip:

      Brian O’Nolan “crushkeen lawn” Brian O’Nolan aka Brian Ó Nuallain aka Flann O’Brien aka Myles na gCopaleen aka Myles na Gopaleen aka Brother Barnabas aka George Knowall

      Hugh Leonard, Seamus Heaney, Brendan Behan.

      Sinn Fein! says the citizen. Sinn Fein amhain! The friends we love are by our side and the foes we hate are before us.

      Paddy, you fearful old Jesuit: if you are looking for answers join me on St Patricks Mount.

      Now my old granddad fought for 3 years in the Great War: he won the Military Medal by rescuing a poor soul off the barbed wire through machine-gun fire: he used to dandle me on his knee and say “you know how I won this?” “pissed out of my mind on navy rum” He also laid to rest the story about playing football on Christmas day “Any Bosch who made the mistake of sticking his head over the parapet on Christmas Day: I would have blown his f*cking head off” He was lucky: after 3 years in the trenches he came back to 6 years of un-employment and a lump of shrapnel up the jaw and his sons had to do it all over again: and their reward was cultural annihilation. So count yr blessings.

    • Jambo25

      I take it you aren’t too proud of O’Duffy’s Blueshirts and their part in volunteering to fight for Franco? How about the riots round about VE Day when Irish citizens who just happened to be protestants or were suspected of fighting in the British forces, against Nazism, were attacked by mobs in Dublin and the Garda did sod -all to protect them for awhile. I believe one of the organisers of the student section of the mobs was the lovely Charles Haughey.

      • Paddy S

        What has that got to do with it? I specifically stated 1919-1921 – I have no love for haughey or fianna fail or blueshirts…. Oh and check your history book sources too btw.

        • Jambo25

          Which men of 1916-1921? I would have admiration for Connolly but none for the bigot, de Valera, or one pr two others. Similarly, you simply cannot feel admiration for the men of 1916-1921 without adding a couple of other things in.

          One is, that I suspect, that Irish Home Rule (What you pretty well got after 1921-1922 anyway.) would have been a bit of a certainty post-1918. I’m pretty sure it would have been ‘unfinished business’ rather like wonen’s suffrage. Trouble in the North, certainly, after the sacrifices of the 36th Division and others during the war but it would have been a done deal. No ‘Troubles’. No civil war.

          You also have to look at the nation and society that the men of 1916-1921 achieved. Rural poverty (The last of my ma’s side of the family left Mayo in the early 20s), small minded Catholic bigotry and mass emigration. A political system dominated, pretty exclusively, by the men of 1916-1921 and later on their descendants. Protestants weren’t exactly ‘ethnically cleansed’ on the Bosnian model but the state and large sections of Irish society made it pretty clear they weren’t particularly wanted or seen as political and social equals. That attitude went right on up until the 70s and 80s when a senior FF pol was (It was either Haughey or one of his pals.) was heard to say, in public, “They say you can’t bomb a million protestants into a united Ireland but maybe you can bomb them out of it.” The Guinnesses and Jacobs are brought up to show how ‘open’ post independence Irish society was but these people were fabulously wealthy anyway and therefore untouchable. A few people with Protestant backgrounds were allowed honorific posts as President or some such and there must have been, for a short while a few Protestants at senior level in the civil service (Though various measures such as Gaelic language requirements took care of that.). I cannot think of too many Protestants who held major ministerial portfolios in Ireland. I think a chap called Oliver Brown who was Health Minister. I cannot think of many others.

          • Paddy S

            In his defence, De valera was no bigot, he was a lot of other things but he was not a bigot.
            As for the speculative we would have got home rule, yes probably and Ireland would have been co-opted into the Second World War and bombed extensively, given Brits couldnt protect their own I doubt we would have been much better. As for no civil war in North or sectarian trouble – I doubt it that was always going to happen had the unionists achieved home rule which did happen.
            As for the last paragraph I find some to agree with and some not. I have never seen that comment about blowing up Protestants.

            • Jambo25

              1) We’ll simply have to disagree on de Valera however I would ask you to look at the nature of the society over which he presided and which he shaped. Some people more unkind than I would say he presided over a state which was about half way to Clerical Fascism. The journalist, Edward Pearce, certainly believed you could trace what he called “a cosy Fascism” in the 1937 constitution. Possibly OTT but not by much.

              An agreed home rule in 1919 or 20 would have led to pretty much complete disengagement from the British state by 1939 anyway. I cannot see that Ireland would have taken any part in WW2. There would certainly have been trouble in the North if any attempt to force them into a 32 county state had been tried. That was true prior to 1914 and was truer, in spades, after the Protestant Unionist losses in the war. The thing is, though, that partition was all that was ever on offer.

              As for my last paragraph. It wasn’t just Protestants who were to a certain extent excluded. I shared a flat with a couple of Irish guys back in London in the 60s. They were very bright boys and should have gone to university but due to the fact that their families were non-believing atheists, had been excluded from the better state schools due to the influence of the church. I think they attended some kind of trade schools where church influence and indoctrination were less. I also eventually knew a couple of Irish Protestants whose kids went to fee paying private schools at about the same time for much the same reason.

              I came across that quote many years ago. It was reported in a couple of quality British newspapers. I think the journalist, Mary Holland, in the Observer might have been one of them. It was round about the time of the Gun running investigation and it was certainly down to one of the gruesome threesome :Haughey, Blaney and Boland. I think it was Haughey but to be honest, I’m not sure. Haughey certainly was capable of it. Anybody who had drinky poos and a bite to eat, on several occasions, with Otto Skorzeny was a fairly odd choice to end up as Taoiseach. The fact that he was probably post-war Ireland’s most successful politician says something about post-war Ireland.

              • Paddy S

                Sean Lemass was the greatest Taoiseach of the post war era. Again your outlook on Dev is flawed, I hate defending the man, but he was no fascist nor catholic puppet, he rejected all attempts to make catholic religion the dominant state religion. He also recognised Church of Ireland and Jews in 1937 constitution which was progressive document for its time.

                • Jambo25

                  I didn’t mean that Haughey was successful in any other way than electorally but that is the point. The man was an utter sleaze ball: corrupt and scummy; yet kept on appealing to the Irish electorate. Just as the successes of Thatcher and Blair said something about the electorates they appealed to (and nothing nice) so the success of Haughey tells you quite a bit about the electorate he appealed to (Also nothing nice.).

                  As for the 1937 constitution itself, I was under the impression that the Archbishop of Dublin helped with the drawing up of the document, particularly with reference to education, family, social welfare etc .Weren’t drafts of the document also sent to the Vatican for comment and approval? That sounds pretty clerical and sectarian to me; particularly when you read the preamble which looks like something out of the 17th century.

                • Harry Peters

                  I certainly agree with you regarding Haughey and Fianna Fail.

      • Suada

        Britain’s actions during the Spanish Civil War, especially the arms embargo it enforced against the Republican government, did far more to ensure Franco’s victory in the civil war than O’Duffy’s Blueshirts, (and of course, there were British people who volunteered to fight for Franco as well). Britain was utterly complicit in Franco’s takeover of Spain, as well as many of Hitler’s actions (until his invasion of Poland), you should probably bear than in mind before condemning Ireland of allegedly supporting or being complicit in fascism.

        • Jambo25

          Usual Irish nationalist ‘whataboutery’.

          • Harry Peters

            Suada: Most people at the time saw this as a communist vs fascist fight with no clear preference. I doubt that the British Government supported Franco.

            Jambo25: For every Franco-supporting O’Duffy, there was a Republican-supporting Frank Ryan. BTW, You started the ‘whataboutery’.

            • Jambo25

              Nobody’s denying that plenty of Irish, like plenty of Scots and English went to fight for the IBs. I cannot think of any other supposedly democratic state which sent an organised body of volunteers, like O’Duffy’s Blueshirts to fight for Franco though.

              • Harry Peters

                O’Duffy’s Blueshirts was not sent by the Irish Free State; they were volunteers. The Connolly Column – named after the 1916 leader – fought on the Republican side as volunteers too.

                O’Duffy’s Blueshirts == Mosley’s Blackshirts == Spode’s Blackshorts.

                • Jambo25

                  The British Blackshirts never sent an organised battalion sized formation to fight for Franco. An organisation linked to Fine Gael did.

              • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

                Define “democracy”? When you Anglo-Saxons and Jews use the phrase it is usually a code for plutocracy. Benito Mussolini was democratically elected, as was Adolf Hitler. These governments sent volunteers to fight on the Catholic side of the Spanish Civil War against Bolshevism and World Jewry.

            • Suada

              Yes, I know that. I’m just saying that the British government imposed the arms embargo on the Spanish governemnt, and actively tried to prevent others (like France) from coming to its assistance. This did far more to assist Franco that O’Duffy’s band of nobodys. Britain did not actively support Franco, but it was utterly complicit in his takeover.

            • Jambo25

              700 Blueshirts ended up in Spain. About 250 Irish are estimated to have joined the IBs.

          • Suada

            Perhaps, but you are the one who brought the subject up, despite it being totally irrelevent to Paddy S’ original point, I think you are the one guilty of whataboutery. Oh yes, and the Blueshirts were never ‘sent’ by the Irish government.

            • Jambo25

              And that’s what makes Ireland unique. It was the only democratic country which sent sizable numbers of volunteers to fight for Franco in an organised form.The only organised groups that went from the UK fought in the IBs. Thank you for bringing this up and helping me make my point.

              • Suada

                Um, you do realise there was a similarly sized French brigade (organized by the Croix de Feu) which fought for Franco as well? Eoin O Duffy’s force consisted of a grand total of 700 men, and he was never supported by the Irish government (which declared all participation in the war illegal).

                • Jambo25

                  OK, not unique. I must admit I’d forgotten La Rocque’s goons. One of only 2 then and the French contingent was only 500 men. 200 fewer than the Irish.. The Blueshirt group was organised and sent from Ireland. I never said it was sent by the Irish government

              • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

                More Irish people fought for and supported Franco than opposed him (the masses also sympathised with Salazar in Portugal). The Connolly Column were a small band of rag tag Marxists, some of whom like Frank Ryan even later collaborated with the Waffen-SS (our German comrades). The International Brigades supposed connection to “the Irish” is largely the mythology of Christy Moore folk songs… more Jews and more Protestants went to kill the Spanish Catholics than Irish people did.

            • Jambo25

              My point was that you cannot go all misty eyed over 1916-1921 without looking at the consequences of what was done and those consequences were the civil war and the path that Irish society and politics took over subsequent decades. I never stated that the Blueshirts were sent by the Irish government.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

        General Franco was a great man. You do realise that British intelligence also supported Franco covertly? The British imperialists were fine setting Eastern Europe alight with Bolshevism, but Spain and France is a bit close for comfort… their little Bolshevik friends might have crossed the channel next. Not just killing Orthodox and Catholics, but Proddies and Freemasons too.

        • Jambo25

          Get medical help. You need it. I normally at least attempt to post politely back to people but in your case I won’t bother.

        • Suada

          The Republicans were certainly no saints, but Franco was a mass murderer and was far worse.

    • Daniel Maris

      How about the signing of the book of condolences at the German Embassy in Dublin on behalf of the Irish government when Hitler died. That was above and beyond the call of duty.

      • Harry Peters

        DeValera was a moron. There can be no excuse for what he did. Even his Minister for External Affairs begged him not to sign.

        Frankly, Ireland’s neutrality was bogus compared to Portugal, Switzerland, or Sweden. Germans were locked up. Allied soldiers, airmen, and sailors were normally sent to Northern Ireland. Airspace could be overflown, weather stations reported to the RAF, irish Nationals could join a foreign army in time of war and up to 20000 died. Even deserters from the Irish Army were only dishonorably discharged when they returned from the British Army – and they were pardoned last year. Dublin was bombed ‘by accident’ by the Luftwaffe. Fire services were sent to Belfast when it was bombed. All this 17 years after the end of the Irish War of Independence.

        I still rather they would have fought on the Allied side.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

        Adolf Hitler was the Chancellor of Germany, a great nation which supported Irish independence in 1916.

      • Paddy S

        I am not defending that and that has little to do with my argument.

  • andagain

    The Irish soldiers were not to know what would await them in France.

    They knew that they would shoot at the enemy, the enemy would shoot at them, and that many of them would be killed. You can say that before any major war. All else is detail.

  • asalord

    Its almost as if Mr Massie yearns to see the Irish accept the British version of its long and troubled history.If only they could accept how wonderful the “united” kingdom was,and is!
    Aye,the First World War,its history and ramifications,are complicated.
    Paeans to British nationalism are pitifully simplistic.

    • Harry Peters

      That is not fair. Massie seems to be making the point that neither the Irish nor the British version are exclusively correct. Instead we have a complex and nuanced history that throws up interesting paradoxes. Like November the 11th 1924, in Dublin. I found his article refreshingly free of the old shibboleths.

  • Theuniondivvie

    This article starts on a false premise, i.e. that there are numbers of ‘nationalists – of any stripe’ who don’t think it’s complicated. In fact, the essence of cloth-eared, over simplification is to suggest such a commemoration will capture ‘our national spirit in every corner of the country’, and will be ‘something that says something about who we are as a people’. National spirit, ‘a’ people? Well, that’s the Irish excluded then.

    • asalord

      Aye,you’re right,Theuniondivvie.
      And to think we’ve got a whole year ahead of us of such “national spirit” and self-righteous propaganda!

  • Sandy_Jamieson

    There is no doubt that in many parts of the Free State, there was a tremendous pro-British Feeling. They certainly were strongly in favour of Home Rule/Devolution so in that sense they were not Unionist but were unhappy with Separation. Remember that the Treaty was never put to a Plebiscite so there were many in Ireland who did not approve of that separation of Ireland from Britain and they weren’t just the West Britons.. The election of a Fianna Fail Government under de Valera in 1932 accelerated the division between Ireland and the UK. Those who remained loyal to Britain or had suspect loyalties were hounded out of their work.only those loyal to the new regime were offered employment in the state. In social life such people were gently ethnically cleansed from Ireland in the 1920s and 1930s . No brutality but a slow disenfranchisement from public life. These people had no place in de Valera’s Ireland.

    No doubt Alex Salmond is nurturing similar plans because even he wins the Separendum, its going to be by a small percentage and there would be at least a large minority will oppose him

    • asalord

      “No doubt Alex Salmond is nurturing similar plans because even he wins
      the Separendum, its going to be by a small percentage and there would be
      at least a large minority will oppose him”

      More unionist threats.

      • HJ777

        In what way was it a “threat”?

        • Jambo25

          I wouldn’t call Jamieson’s post a “threat”; merely an evidence-less slur.

          • Sandy_Jamieson

            I would have thought there is some evidence. The attack dogs of the cybernats unleashed on any public figure who comes out in favour of the Union, the fact that business is frightened by the threat of losing government contracts. Even this week an SNP Minister Shona Robison tried to silence an academic in Dundee who appeared at a pro-Union event. The SNP are no more than Fianna Fail in tartan albeit to their credit without the sectarian nature of FF.

            • Jambo25

              Details then. I’m sure you have them. I’m sure you can demonstrate that the SNP are like FF in that they are the descendants of those involved in a major and vicious Scottish civil war 7 or 8 decades ago. You see I cannot remember that. That’s probably a bit of history I missed when doing my degree. Who, in your view would be the SNP’s Haughey? Who would be the party’s Blaney and Boland, involved in gun-running?

              As for the fear in the hearts of pro-Union businessmen and women. Who are they? What pressure has been brought to bear on them? (and I want proof: not mere assertion) We get lots of assertions of the sheer evil and malignacy of Salmond, the SNP, Scottish nationalism in general but we never seem to get any proof.

              • Sandy_Jamieson

                To his credit the FM was correct in saying that his fight for Scottish Independence has not even provoked a nosebleed. The parallel with FF is certainly not in FF’s origins but in its structure. However there is a darker side and while I always have accepted that the SNP leadership have little to do with the cybernats directly, on occasion one comes across something akin to this story

                http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/sports-minister-tries-silence-dundee-2783271

                • Jambo25

                  Only that isn’t the full story. The Daily Telegraph (Not exactly SNP or Scottish independence friendly) story gives a few more details. Firstly, it appears that Professor Whatley didn’t just address the Better Together meeting but actually chaired it. Secondly, the good professor is apparently involved in a project designed to answer, objectively and impartially, questions to do with the background to and practicalities of possible Scottish independence. Now, like Professor Whatley, I was trained as an historian and if I was reading a piece on Scottish independence from someone of Professor Whatley’s background I would regard him as parti pris and frankly take what he had written with a bucketful rather than a teaspoon of salt. I don’t think Ms Robison is particulalrly clever in getting involved in this but, to be fair to her, she wasn’t asking for his head on a plate but questioning his professional impartiality given his behaviour.

                  Academics cannot complain when they stray into politics if they are then treated and criticised the same way as other political actors are.

      • Sandy_Jamieson

        Just as Ed Milliband opposes David Cameron, in the event I and others would oppose Alex Salmond. Its called democracy

    • Nedicus

      I must disagree with you’re assessment re. people being hounded out
      of their jobs- when the Treaty was signed British civil servants in
      Ireland were given the choice to join the new Irish service or transfer
      elsewhere. Some stayed others moved. In fact the first few Secretary
      Generals of the Dept of Finance (which was the de facto most important
      civil servant position) were originally in the British Civil Service.
      Indeed the fact that the Irish service so closely mirrored the British
      shows the influence of former British civil servants. Once Dev took over
      he retained the Irish Civil Service as it was with the exception of I
      think of two firings (one of whom was O’Duffy for obvious reasons). The
      Irish language requirements did hinder the entrance of formerly loyal
      people from joining but it must be remembered that one of the
      ideological reasons for an independent Irish state was to try to
      encourage the revival of the Irish language.

      Plus it
      should be noted that many of the traditional Protestant (granted I know I
      equating loyalism with Protestantism but there was a significant
      overlap) firms(Guinness’, Jacob’s etc) continued to keep jobs within the
      community and Protestants participation in the professions services
      (medicine, law) was high in comparison to their size. That is not to say that many Protestants emigrated or that discrimination did not take place( the Dunbar-Harrison case being a dramatic example) but the story is more complicated than you’re post presents it.

  • Jupiter

    I’m expecting this post to turn into a stupid Rangers-Celtic argument.

    • kduffy

      The Army Rangers Unit, the elite of the Irish armed forces vs Na Fianna, legendary Celtic warriors.
      Tonight on the History channel, where we just make it up as we go along.

  • Pootles

    I would agree with the central argument here, that the history of the British Isles, of the UK, and of its convoluted, and sometimes very painful internal relationships is the one constant. However, another observation re the heading photograph might be made; that is Dublin was at that time still a majority Protestant city. The history of 20th Century all-Ireland ethnic cleansing has yet to be fully written.

    • Paddy S

      Ethnic cleansing is too strong a word. It occurred only in small areas and small incidents in Cork and the South. Majority of the Protestant people left in 20s for better economic reasons and also because back then you took the religion of whom you married into, so many Protestants when marrying Catholics their kids became catholics.

      • Pootles

        Part of the story, indeed, although one might note that a Catholic marrying a Protestant would be excommunicated by the Catholic Church if they did not guarantee to bring their children up as Catholics. This happened to my father in the 1950s when he married an Anglican – the Church of England did not place similar constraints on him or my mother. But, to return to ‘ethnic cleansing’ – it did happen in Cork and the South as you say, but also in the new border areas, and it was, in turn, visited on Catholic Nationalists in the new north. The IRA did the same thing in their war against Unionist farmers in the ‘Troubles’, using the technique of killing the sons of farmers in particular. As I said, there is a need for a history of ethnic cleansing, in its various forms, in the island of Ireland in the 20th Century.

        • Jambo25

          It certainly happened along the border during the 70s and 80s when Catholic paramilitaries ethnically cleansed protestant farmers out of ‘their’ areas to create safe bases of operation. There appears to have been a fair level of co-operation from the Catholic population in acting as spotters to finger Protestant neighbours in certain areas.

    • CraigStrachan

      No way was Dublin a majority Protestant city in 1924.

      By then it would have been 10 or 12% Protestant, tops.

      • Pootles

        The 1926 census gives 14% non-RC for the County of Dublin (which includes, of course, the small Jewish community). It is not disaggregated for the City of Dublin, which is where almost all protestants of one type of another lived – and had been, in 1911, the majority.

        • CraigStrachan

          Nope, not a majority in 1911 either, not even close. The 1911 census puts the Catholic population of Dublin at 83%.

          • Pootles

            City of Dublin ? The 1911 census on the Irish govt stats site doesn’t disaggregate

            • CraigStrachan

              Doesn’t really matter for present purposes. If the population of Co Dublin, including the city, was 83% Catholic, the city could not have a Protestant majority, even in 1911. Maybe a few suburbs did – Rathgar, Rathmines, places like that.

              • Pootles

                You are probably right – but it is interesting that it is difficult to find detailed, disaggregated figures. I will amend my original post. My source was a sociologist at UCD, but I will have to ask her again.

                • CraigStrachan

                  Ask someone at Trinity!

                • Pootles

                  But it’s full of Unionists !!

                • CraigStrachan

                  In 1924, maybe!

                • Pootles

                  Arf!

    • Peter

      20th century All Ireland ethnic cleansing! What a complete and utter fool you are. Dublin a majority Protestant city (and the point being what?)? Complete and utter rubbish. Take a look at your Imperial Britannia Rules the Waves History mate. And the implication that we somehow, us nationalists from north, south east and west of Ireland, simply fell out of your UK is misty eyed British revisionism at its best! I’m very proud of my English cousins, one currently a Lady in the House of Lords (John Major appointee) another a former head of the Young Conservatives – not my politics but I admire their contribution in England. But a cursory reading of many of the comments shows that you really need to get some Irish content on your history syllabus in the UK. The paucity of knowledge beggars belief and from people who want to lecture the Irish – Alex Massie’s “this is Ireland after All” demanding a please explain.

      • Pootles

        Get a grip, old man. First of all, I’m not in the slightest an aficianado of the British Empire. Secondly, on the issue of Dublin, see the posts between me and Craig Strachan, where I concede. Thirdly, where did I say that ‘we [Irish] simply fell out’ etc etc? Answer, I didn’t. Finally, on ethnic cleansing as something needing more historical attention, take a look at: Barry Keane (2012), ‘Ethnic Cleansing? Protestant decline in West Cork between 1911 and 1926’, in History Ireland, 20 (2), 35-38; Andy Bielenberg (2013), ‘Exodus: the emigration of Southern Irish Protestants during the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War’, in Past and Present, 218(1), 199-233; Gemma Clark (2010), ‘The Fiery Campaign’, in Brian Griffin & Ellen McWilliams (eds), Irish Studies in Britain; and Thomas Fitzgerald (2012), ‘The execution of “spies an informers” in West Cork, 1921’, in David Fitzpatrick (ed), Terror in Ireland, 1916-1923. They should do you for a start.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

      If somebody invades your house and you pick up a bat to drive him back out, do you “ethnically cleanse” him or are you just repelling a common criminal?

      • Pootles

        What we are talking about in this context is Irish people driving out other Irish people from their homes. So, Irish Unionists in the post-Treaty north driving out suspected nationalists, and Irish nationalists & republicans driving out Irish Unionists from Eire. Which of these are ‘common criminals’ in your mind?

  • Theuniondivvie

    Some shocking subbing there.

  • Wessex Man

    Mmm, are you Mr Massie going to remember the brave volunteers from ireland who fought bravely for the Uk in WW2, who were treated shamefully when they arrived back in Ireland and quite a few were driven from their homeland for saving Western Europe from the facists.

    • franklin

      The only ones treated “shamefully” were deserters from the Irish army. Most countries would have shot them not barred them for working for the government on their return.

      • BillyCobbett

        No Army shoots their deserters in peacetime.

        • gerontius

          Irish republicans have a track record of shooting anybody anytime.

          • BillyCobbett

            Your getting confused between the IRA and the Irish government.

            • JabbaTheCat

              That’s an easy mistake to make…

            • gerontius

              I don’t think so.

          • franklin

            Unlike English Monarchists of course…

        • franklin

          It wasn’t considered peacetime or wartime, the official term was “emergency”. Invasion by either the axis or allies was considered a real possibility.

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

          Ireland and Britain were engaged in an economic war at the time. Not only were they deserters, but they joined with an enemy of the state: the British Masonic Protestants in their war against Europe.

          • Jambo25

            Mad as a bloody hatter.

            • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

              Yes, you Scottish Calvinists are. Keep dreaming that your dumbass ancestors were fighting for “freedom”. Irish Catholics will never again be pawns in one of your wars, suck it up!

              • Jambo25

                My ma’s family were Catholic smallholders from Mayo yo moron. My granny used to go to church with a couple of relatives of James Connolly you Fascist berk.

              • Keith D

                You’re a bell end. The next European war is going to be one of survival and you better be on the right side.

                Sectarian driven neutrality wont save you if we lose.

      • Wessex Man

        Come on then prove that to us now you’ve said it, I don’t believe you but am willing to apologise if you can prove that is the case.

        • franklin

          Whats to prove? People in England have a very distorted and selective view of Ireland and Irish history. I have 7 (yes, seven) relatives who were in various British forces over the last 100 years and none of them had any problems post service. On the other hand those who swore an oath to defend Ireland and then deserted in an emergency to fight for a country that may have invaded Ireland (to seize the atlantic ports as was considered by H.MG. at the time) were barred from government jobs, and rightly so.

      • http://www.ulster-scots.co.uk/ Kilsally

        Then why had Irish government just pardoned them? The shame was Irish neutrality & IRA complicity with the Nazi’s

        • BillyCobbett

          ” The shame was Irish neutrality”

          Why get involved in a quarrel that is not your’s?

        • franklin

          No shame in neutrality. Ireland had fought a world war, a rebellion, a war of independence and a civil war in the previous two decades. Are you surprised no one wanted to follow Britain into another war?

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

          Fighting for Jews and to enslave Eastern Europe under Bolshevism is a job for the British Masonic Protestants. Why should the Irish Catholics fight against Europe on the side of the real enemy? Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the Vatican and South America didn’t do enough during WWII… true, they all should have fought on the side of Germany against Britain!

      • Jambo25

        Fight Nazism and be treated as a traitor by the government which gave condolences on Hitler’s death.

    • BillyCobbett

      Didn’t save E Europe from the Commies though.

    • ecuadorthree

      This myth seems to be gaining currency recently. My grandfather was one of those volunteers – he was a flight sergeant in the RAF during WWII and was at Dunkirk and later Africa. After WWII he returned to Ireland with an English wife and settled with a small Irish town, where he became a respected member of the community. He certainly wasn’t ‘treated shamefully’ or ‘driven from his homeland’. The difference is didn’t join the Irish army and then desert when it was under threat of invasion.

      • Jambo25

        Who threatened invasion? Do you know something about British intentions that the rest of us don’t?

        • franklin

          Both Britain and Germany had drawn up plans for invasion of Ireland. Fortunately neither side acted on them.

          • Jambo25

            Because British troops prevented the Germans from doing so. Britain had the opportunity but never did so.

            • Keith D

              Winston Churchill told the Irish Government if they didn’t stop shining the lights of Dublin at night, we would invade.

              They were lighting the way to the darkened shipyards in Belfast for the Luftwaffe.

              They must have taken it seriously, because it stopped.

            • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

              It would have been great if Britain did invade Ireland during World War II. That would have demoralised a significant number of the Irish-Americans in the US Army and caused chaos within the Allied forces, the “Brits are our friends now” line wouldn’t have washed with them if they were invading Ireland. Without the Yanks, the Brits would have been toast: Germany and Vichy France would then have helped the IRA to disinfect Ireland of British forces. With the victory of the Axis forces, all of Ireland would now be under Dublin rule.

              • James Lynch

                …or German rule? Oh, wait a minute, it now is….just by another route!!

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBC8W0-1PkA Return of the King

      They were deserters who should have been shot for enslaving Western Europe under the British-American imperialists (leading to the current multiracial nightmare that now exists there) and Eastern Europe under the iron fist of Bolshevism. The Germans were the good guys in WWII and the IRA were right to collaborate with them.

      • MSturdy

        True oh King. And the Irish Govt’s refusal to grant the Royal Navy refuelling ports to fight the Uboat stranglehold (in return for Northern Ireland) was collaboration too. Hence the heartfelt condolences from that Government on the death of Hilter…

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