Forgotten lesson from front line of history

YET again Europe was in the throes of war. Volunteers from every street and parish in Ireland died in their thousands.

Families and neighbours gathered together to read letters from the front line. Poems and songs were composed and sung at weddings and dances, at public houses and fairs.

People saw the war as a great common struggle against tyranny in which the destiny of their country was at stake. There are few people in Ireland today whose families were not touched by tragedy.

This was the War of the Spanish Succession, 1702-’14. The armies of the Irish had been defeated at home and were, as they saw it, continuing the struggle alongside the armies of France. They fought and died at Cremona, Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudinard and Malplaquet. They filled the cathedral of Ypres with captured British battle-standards.

In this season of remembrance, should we be commemorating and honouring their sacrifice? I suggest that before we honour them and hold them up to impressionable young people for admiration and emulation, we should consider carefully what they were fighting and killing for.

Was the killing necessary? Was it for a worthy cause? Do we really know what it was all about? All the more reason why we should be even more cautious about commemorating more recent wars whose propaganda is actually still alive and killing.

For instance, what was the real purpose of the Somme butchery? Setting propaganda aside, we know what the victors got out of their Great War. To ensure permanent peace after ‘the war to end all wars’, out of the rubble of the defeated the world was presented with Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia (remember them?), Iraq, a Jewish Protectorate in Palestine and the Black and Tan terror against Irish democracy.

Why, it is almost enough to make a person want to keep out of all foreign wars. Which was the rock on which the foreign policy of independent Ireland was based — until recently.

Pat Muldowney

2 Belmont Crescent


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