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Critiquing ‘our shared history’ and 1916 August 5, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Thought this would interest people:

Goldsmith

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1. roddy - August 5, 2016

Well said Brian.

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2. Dr. X - August 6, 2016

I didn’t know that about people being shot during the 1910 elections. What’s the wider story with that one?

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EWI - August 6, 2016

That the AOH (Board of Erin), i.e. the muscle wing of John Redmond’s UIL/Irish Party, were thugs of the highest order (look up the ‘Baton Convention’).

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Dr.Nightdub - August 7, 2016

As Brian has pointed out before, Sinn Fein election workers were beaten up on the Falls during the 1918 General Election campaign. Wee Joe Devlin’s Hibs /AOH were a violent lot.

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Brian Hanley - August 7, 2016

During the general elections in 1910 the Home Rule party tried to crush the new All for Ireland League led by William O’Brien and there was considerable violence in Cork and Mayo.

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3. rockroots - August 6, 2016

I’d hoped to catch this talk during a visit home to Longford, but it didn’t work out. I don’t suppose it was recorded?

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Brian Hanley - August 7, 2016

It was filmed and its online somewhere.

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rockroots - August 7, 2016

Ah great, I see it’s been posted by ‘Outtake Community Media’:
https://www.youtube.com/user/OutTakeFilms1/videos?view=0&sort=dd&shelf_id=0

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4. Jolly Red Giant - August 7, 2016

And let’s not forget the violence used against workers by prominent IPP supporters like William Martin Murphy during the lockout (and many other strikes)

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5. Ivorthorne - August 7, 2016

Excellent. Well put.

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Daniel Rayner O'Connor Lysaght - August 8, 2016

Actually, WM Murphy was closer to O’Brien’s All for Ireland League (to Connolly, ‘the All for William League’: perhaps most accurately, ‘the All Against Redmond League’). Nonetheless, the Dublin Hibernians did organise scabs and attack militant workers, becoming more brazen after the ‘Kiddies’ Holiday’ fiasco. One of their leading inspirers was that most pious Catholic nationalist, Alfie Byrne.

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6. fergal - August 7, 2016

These things seem to come in cycles- traditional nationalist, revisionist, ‘shared history’ approach.
Now that we’ve all become poppy wearers I wonder if the full implications of Irish involvement in imperialism will be up for discussion? The warts and all version of membership of the British army. Just what were we doing in India, Egypt etc. Is this the love( of empire) that dare not speak its name?

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gendjinn - August 7, 2016

None.

Anyone who joined the British army, pledged allegiance to a British monarch and therefore forfeited their Irish citizenship.

I don’t see how you hang the behaviour of those traitors around the necks of those Irish people that weren’t traitors.

I include my own relatives and antecedents in that group of traitors.

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rockroots - August 7, 2016

Even James Connolly?

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gendjinn - August 7, 2016

I believe he did something subsequently to redeem himself. Perhaps you can help me put my finger on it😉

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Michael Carley - August 7, 2016

Tom Barry?

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Ivorthorne - August 7, 2016

I don’t really like the label “traitors”.

We all make decisions about what we think is the best option in a given decisions and the decisions we come to are not always correct.

I don’t think that men who signed up to the British army made the “right” decision but I can see how with the information available to them – even if they had reservations – some may have believed that what they were doing was ultimately serving the interests of their nation and/or mankind in general.

Were they right? I think history speaks otherwise. But do I think that we should call those who genuinely acted out of altruism traitors? No. They were patriots who made mistakes and rather than condemn them, I think we should try to learn from their mistakes. The revisionists and the “shared histroy” folk need to understand though, that ultimately, history indicates that these men actually did make very serious mistakes that ultimately, were counterproductive to their sometimes admirable goals.

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2016

And with the weight of nationalist Ireland on that side in a way difficult for people to know what was the right way. And advanced nationalism was marginal initially. If one was born into that historical moment easy to see how views could be formed that we would consider incorrect. Like you both I’ve always been dubious about the dynamic of people joining the British Army then and after, yet I don’t feel that was as problematic as abandoning the Irish army in ww2.

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Gerryboy - August 8, 2016

Sean Mac Stiophain joined the RAF. After 1969 and the split in 1970 he became the First chief-of-staff of the Provisional IRA.

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gendjinn - August 13, 2016

@ivorthorne,

I do appreciate the points you’ve made and at times they have carried weight with me. It is important to always remember that each uniform contains a human being. To the degree your sentiments argue for that I agree.

However, to join a group that oppresses your own people, murders them, robs them of everything? When so many, in far more dire circumstances didn’t. That is the very definition of treason. It is accurate, if emotive, to call them traitors but clearly that is what they are.

There was no doubt in Ireland of what you were when you took the King’s shilling. You knew that you would be considered a traitor, and ostracised even by your own family.

I’d go further today and believe that anyone volunteering or declines to take CO in conscription is the enemy. They are traitors to humanity and should be given psychiatric treatment not a gun. (Neutral countries providing troops for peacekeeping like Ireland or Costa Rica for example would be a class of exceptions. But you’d still want to keep an eye on them.)

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Dr. Nightdub - August 8, 2016

Just in relation to the IRA’s 3rd Northern Division alone, I can think of two Brigade O/Cs, two company O/Cs in Belfast, and two Volunteers who were killed in action in Belfast, all of whom had been members of the British Army in WW1. Were they traitors too?

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ivorthorne - August 8, 2016

“Any single historical event is too complex to be adequately known by anyone. It transcends all the intellectual capacities of men. Our practice is to wait until a sufficient number of details have been forgotten. Of course things seem simpler then! Our memories work that way; we retain the facts which are easiest to think about”

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gendjinn - August 13, 2016

Well yes. But as pointed out with James Connolly, there is the possibility of atonement and redemption. But an act of treason is an act of treason and any Irish person joining the BA is committing an act of treason.

If you are ok with that. Fine. But it is what it is.

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7. fergal - August 7, 2016

Gendjinn- my point was directed at the mainstream media who have reveled in ww1 nostalgia along with some people who have taken a kind of maudlin approach to Irish involvement in British imperialism especially in relation to ww1

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gendjinn - August 7, 2016

fergal,

Ireland as subject colony not only successfully fought off conscription but also staged a rebellion against continued British rule during WWI.

The handful of men that went off to die in an imperial squabble between cousins never represented Ireland. They represented themselves.

And sod the West Brit media. They are all just looking for a promotion to the UK.

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8. fergal - August 7, 2016

I think they’re looking to rehabilitate those who fought for the empire- much more than a handful- in order to hoodwink the rest of us perhaps into supporting modern reincarnations of empire.
The hundreds of thousands of citizens who thronged the streets for the Rising have given their answer to the ‘west Brit media’

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gendjinn - August 7, 2016

They always are. They’ve been raging against neutrality as long as I can remember. They will never stop until they rejoin mama.

Handful in the comparative sense, orders of magnitude more men didn’t volunteer.

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9. Jemmyhope - August 8, 2016

The points raised by Brian are well made. The situation at the time was complex and the attempt by certain individuals and media outlets to ignore the fact that, as Brian states ‘political, communal and sectional strife were well established in Ireland before 1916’ must be challenged.
Just looking at recruitment to the British Army I think you have to distinguish between the mainly upper/ middle class men who joined from a sense of loyalty or pro-imperialism and those of the working class who joined out of poor circumstances. Both groups would have included adventurers and excitement seekers. There is also the important point as to how Irish recruits were looked on by a British Imperialist Establishment that used them and Redmond for it’s own ends.

With the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 John Redmond and the IPP became recruiting agents for the British Army, as did William O Brien of the AIL, the Protestant and Catholic Bishops and the National Newspapers. Over 27,000 National Volunteers answered Redmond’s call to join the British Army in the first year of the war and many of these recruits were certainly influenced into enlisting by Redmond’s promise of Home Rule and incessant propaganda about the ‘freedom of small nations.’

British Government propaganda highlighting alleged atrocities committed during the German invasion of ‘Catholic’ Belgium also played a part in this but against the British Army’s traditional appeal to poor urban Irishmen, patriotism and compassion for poor little Belgium ‘provided far weaker incentives to enlist than did poverty and insecurity’ at home. (‘Conceiving Revolution.’ Ben Novick.)

That many enlisted ‘trying to escape from hunger and poverty’ and others from ‘a sense of adventure’ is without question. The former was the reason given to me on various occasions by my own grandfather who joined the British Army to escape the grinding poverty he had endured in his home town where he grew up in the workhouse. He was only 15 years of age at the time.
This had been the situation for generations with recruits coming mainly from the poorer parts of the cities and towns and the workhouse providing its fair share of cannon fodder as ‘service men were largely drawn from the urban working class for whom soldiering provided an alternative to unemployment. (‘Recruiting and responses to the war in Wexford’, by Pauline Codd.)

The British colonial view of the inferiority of the Irish ran right through ascendancy thinking and many of the Irish recruits were considered to be inadequate and unreliable by high ranking British Officers and Officials. The British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener ‘regarded Nationalists as disloyal, and scarcely bothered to conceal his low expectations of the Irish as a whole.’( ‘Home Rule’ by Alvin Jackson.)
In October 1914 General Sir Lawrence Parsons, who was appointed by Kitchener to organise the 16th Irish Division, writing to John Redmond emphasised British disappointment with the standard of recruit the British Army was attracting in Ireland. He stated that many recruits ‘were of a bad class, drinking, loafing, disrespectful corner boys.’ He was worried about the effect these recruits might have on their perceived betters as ‘the presence of these men in the ranks may act as a deterrent to men of the right class.’(Redmond Papers National Library. Ms 15/220/3. Letter to John Redmond 29 Oct 1914)
A short time previously Parsons had shown his prejudice against having anyone other than upper class representatives of the Ascendancy appointed as officers. In response to Redmond’s appeal to have the newly formed 16th Division ‘made up of Irishmen and officered by Irishmen’ Parsons pleaded on class grounds that ‘you know as well as I do how Irish peasants can judge of a man whether he be a gentleman or not, so that discrimination must be used.’ (Redmond Papers National Library. Ms 15/220/3 Letter dated 26 Oct 1914.)
This bigoted view was plainly widespread among the British officer class as one contemporary observer referring to the treatment received by recruits to the Dublin Fusiliers pointed out.. ‘Irishmen are treated with contumely, addressed as if they were criminals and spoken of as if the name of Irishman and rogue were synonymous terms.’ (Hervey de Montmorency in a letter to Redmond 24 Jan 1915, Redmond Papers Ms 15/257/4 NLI )
There was also an obvious disparity between England and Ireland when it came to militarism. British imperial expansion and ruthless worldwide exploitation had moulded its home based class ridden society into disparate groups of beneficiaries, all anxious to do their respective bit for ‘the good of the Empire’ in an attempt to retain the apparent benefits that accrued to them.
‘In a society where military service was an integral part of the cultural landscape and where wars of one kind or another have been fought in each generation, the rush to ‘join up’ after the declaration of hostilities in 1914 was understandable.’ However Ireland for the most part was different as ‘The country had no great military tradition of its own, and by the early 1900s most of its soldiers were merely adjuncts to the army of its near neighbour and coloniser.’ (They shall not grow old, Irish voices in the Great War.’ Myles Dungan)

What was it James Connolly said? Yes, ruling by fooling is a great British art with great Irish fools to practice on.

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