Monday, 28 September 2009


And, indeed, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit. For the proportion of the population of the Irish Republic that has served in the British Armed Forces, especially the Army, is far higher than the proportion in any part of the United Kingdom, and probably in England least of all. Likewise, militaria is part of mainstream culture in Scotland to an extent quite inconceivable in England. But then, Scotland is in fact part of the United Kingdom. Yet of the five footballing entities in these islands, the one of which the Queen is not the Head of State is the one where by some distance the largest proportion of the population has at some point sworn allegiance to her, even to the death if so called upon.



    Perhaps you should read the article on the death of Lance Corporal Ian Malone of the Irish Guards. Killed in Basra in 2004. The article from the DAILY TELEGRAPH reports his funeral and notes that the number of Irish citizens in the British Army is.......400.
    It also notes Lance Corporal Malone had been rejected by the Irish army.
    May he rest in peace.

  2. Hardly anyone joins Western volunteer armies at all these days, compared to the way they did.

    But my main point stands: as a proportion of the population, far more people in the Irish Republic have been in the British Armed Forces, especially the Army, than is the case in the United Kingdom. They have imbibed the culture. They have taken the oath.

  3. Your point does not stand at all.
    The 400 is from a population of 4 million in the Republic.
    If we take Englands population as say 48 million,the number of serving "English" soldiers would be just 4,800.
    If we take the population of the "UK" as say 60 million, the number of people in British army would be 6,000.
    Likewise Norn Iron population less than 2 million would have a serving British soldiery of less than 200.

    On the other hand the number of Norn Iron soldiers in the Irish Army is usually stated to be 10% although I think this is low.
    What we DO know of course is that around 600 Irish soldiers declare their next of kin as living in Norn Iron which is perhaps a good guide for unmarried soldiers.
    I am uncertain as to the legality of Norn Iron soldiers in Irish Army as there was some dispute recently (happily resolved) about a Job Centre in the North giving application forms.
    Seemingly this technically broke a long ineffective Law about "British" subjects joining other armies. In fact several join the Israeli army and of course the right to be an Irish citizen is supported by legislation in the North.
    I am not of course against Military Training. Leads often to a productive life and it can always come in handy. The early years of the IRA were marked by the training of volunteers by those with military experience (the Catholic Ex Servicemens Association see pic was a vital cog in the organisation)

  4. "The 400 is from a population of 4 million in the Republic"

    That's only the people from there who in it at the moment, not all the people there who ever have been in it and who are still alive. And then there are widows on pensions, and so on.

    The British Army is in fact more of a presence in Southern Irish than in, especially, English society. It is more important economically, socially, culturally, and I strongly suspect politically (at least if you scratch the surface) in the Irish Republic than it could any longer dream of being in England.

  5. You are simply not credible on this issue.
    Which I think is a great shame as it does seem to cast doubt on those other excellent points you occasionally make.
    For example I am not au fait with the complexities of the NW Durham constituency and am therefore happily taking your view as a person on the ground.
    Your localised view seems to tie in with my observation.

    On Irish issues (despite my obvious bias) I am on the ground so to speak. I am not even aware that you have been in Ireland north or south.
    If you ever do decide to visit Belfast, I might give you a tour.

  6. Belfast is not in the Irish Republic, and never has been. The partition of Ireland was before living memory (or as good as), so the cultural divergence is complete.

    But you know that it is true the Irish Republic is awash with old British Army hands, their dependents and their relatives. Fewer than there used to be, but that is only because there are far fewer people in the British Army at all than there used to be.

    And proportionately far more than in England, in particular. Most old Army types in England go back to National Service, so really are now getting on a bit. That's not the case with the Irish.

    Southern Irish Catholics are far more given to joining the British Army than Ulster Protestants are, going all the way back at least to the War, when more people joined up from the Free State than from Northern Ireland. And that was barely a generation after independence.

    But then, look at the recent history of Fiji. And yet the British Army contains any number of Fijians, too.

  7. Take out the Irish, Commonwealth (Fijians classed as though go in and out) and Gurkhas and we'd have no army, we couldn't maintain it. You are also right that much of the rest are Scottish.

  8. Have you actually ever been to Belfast?
    Or Norn Iron?
    As you love the "UK" so much, you should at least TRY and see it (sic) all.

  9. In fairness I should point out that the British Legion distributes quite a lot in (the Republic of) Ireland.
    Indeed some years ago, I actually donated myself to a collector in Nassau Street in Dublin. I did not of course accept the poppy. But I recall its the only occasion on which I ever actually donated to the annual Poppy Appeal.

  10. I say again that Northern Ireland is precisely where this post is not about.

    Ian, while a lot of them are West Indian subjects of the Crown, a lot of them, as I think we can safely assume that you know, come from African countries, especially Ghana, of which the Queen has not been Head of State for decades. And the relationship with Fiji has also been complicated for quite a long time now, since before an 18-year-old now joining up was born.

    So their respective powers that be might want them to have no relationship with the Crown, but the people on the ground have a different idea, and a perfectly simple way of putting it into practice.

    The same, very obviously, with the many Irishmen who remain perfectly willing to take the oath required on members of the British Armed Forces. That's as much of a relationship as they want. But it's a relationship. Undeniably, they do want it. And there are plenty of them.

  11. Why not wear the poppy, John? I have doubts about the Second World War and no doubts at all, but not in the official way, about the First. Yet I wouldn't dream of not wearing the poppy.

    But you are coming round, I see. Yes, the Legion is very active in the Republic...

  12. I'm Hard Left and proud of it, pacifist on most things, but Irish Republican to the core. I wear the poppy. I wouldn't ever not. Can't imagine it.

  13. I've never met one who didn't. Heard of them occasionally, but never met one. Like you say, no matter how staunchly pacifist, Irish Republican or (rather incongruously) both.

    Love the moniker. I've never looked into Stalin's Jewish background. I might, when I have a moment. But still, let's not go quite *that* far off-topic.

  14. Joining the British army is quite a relationship with the Crown, being prepared to die for it. But yes many Irish want it and many people from other former parts of the British Empire do to, or they wouldn't join and swear the oath. They just don't want their country to be run directly from Britain, that's all.

  15. Sorry, and now it isn't of course so there isn't a problem.

  16. Quite. Although of course enormous numbers of Irishmen joined the British Army when Ireland *was* "run directly from Britain", if that's how you want to put it.

    Another great name. Sometime, I may do a post on how Fine Gael illustrates the tragically corrosive effects of subscription to neoliberal economics, which has turned them from the morally and socially conservative, Social Catholic party of the pro-Treaty tradition into what they are today.

  17. David, rightly or wrongly in my part of the world, the poppy is a divisive symbol. When I worked in the Civil Service it was never sold "office to office" but the box remained on the Doormans counter and he was not permitted to actually promote it. Fair Equality legislation means workplaces (including paradoxically civil service depts) are neutral working environments.

    Our "doormen" were usually ex-military. Not actively selling the poppy did I suspect have adverse effects on the amount raised. Although SOME Catholics did actually wear it, a considerable number of Protestants did not wear it (mostly for reasons of thrift/selfishness rather than making a point.
    People were of course allowed to wear them in the Dept but most preferred to remove them when speaking to people or groups not overtly sympathetic to the symbolism.
    The old RUC had a policy that it was a requirement that the Poppy be worn. The new PSNI leaves it to the discretion of the PSNI member.

    The BBC also used to operate a policy whereby onscreen reporters/presenters wore a poppy and some Catholic newsreaders etc discretely "appeared" on the Radio.
    The BBC has now dropped the insistence.
    Our local District Policing Board will soon discuss whether the local Police should be obliged NOT to wear a poppy. Oddly the Sinn Féin Chair of the Board thinks this is a step too far. After all discretion NOT to wear it should be accompanied by discretion to wear it.
    I would not wear one. While the British military experience is not without honour and decency (WW1/WW2) it has in my humble opinion been scarred by historic military action that I could not support......Aden, Cyprus, Kenya, India, Palestine, Ireland (obviously), Falklands/Malvinas, Iraq, Afghnaistan.
    None of this represents my anti imperialist stance. And while some would say that financial support of the VICTIMS or EX-SOLDIERS is not the same as political support for their actions, unfortunately in my part of the world it is entwined.
    Incidently the Queens portrait cannot be displayed in PSNI stations.

  18. Whereas I assume it must be in Royal British Legion clubs in the Republic. Which is odd. But not as odd as the alternative.

    Clubs maintained by English-speaking white South Africans often not only still fly the Union Flag on the grounds that "it's the Club Flag" and sing God Save The Queen on the grounds that "it's the Club Song", but also display the Queen's picture on the grounds that "she's the Club President". I do not know how aware of holding that position she is, or what her duties are in that capacity.

  19. I dont think I have ever actually been in a British Legion building. I am sure they have offices in the Republic and possibly even one or two clubs.
    They do have a service in Christ Church of Ireland in Dublin each year and the President of Ireland attends.
    Likewise they are represented with other groups at the (comparatively) new service each July in the Royal (sic) Hospital at Kilmainham. This is a service which acknowledges the contribution of Irishmen in the Irish, UN and foreign armies. Again quite properly the President attends. I have never been at one but it is of course televised and it is quite moving especially the inter-denominational aspect. So good to see a Muslim Iman and the Chief Rabbi as well as other Christian faiths represented.
    The ceremonys most moving part is the lowering of our National Flag and its raising and the ceremony concludes with the playing and singing of Amhrán na Bhfian (the National Anthem). Very moving.