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15 November 2007 Edition

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Remembering what World War One was about

LAST SUNDAY was Britain’s Remembrance Sunday. It is a day marked not at all in the Carney household nor in the homes of most of our readers but it has become more and more fashionable to applaud the wearing of the poppy.
Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese have both come under pressure to wear them as ‘a gesture’ to unionism. Radio presenters who pretend the Easter lily does not even exist will happily host ‘provocative’ debates on wearing poppies. Want provocation? Hold a debate on wearing an Easter lily in The Irish Times.
And so it was refreshing to see an outstanding column from Vincent Browne in The Sunday Business Post this week taking to task the poppy and those who call for it to be worn to remember the dead of World War One.
“This was a war about world domination by imperialist elites and about nothing else,” wrote Browne.
“The millions who died were mainly young impoverished members of the British working class, young impoverished Irish men, hundreds of thousands of colonised peoples, all either conscripted or, worse still, conned into a belief that it was their ‘duty’ to fight and give their lives.
“This was one of the most evil escapades in history; one of the most callous acts ever in the squandering of human lives. Joining with unionists who remember with pride, however misplaced, the sacrifices of unionists who died in World War One, was probably well intentioned.
“We should not be part of a commemoration that masks one of the greatest crimes against humanity that was World War One. It should be remembered in infamy.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Arch-imperialist Rudyard Kipling, who stoked the flames of war only to lose his only son, Jack, in France, also summed it up well: “If any question why we died, tell them, because our fathers lied.”
We can remember them without glorifying the lie by wearing a poppy.

There are good newspapers in this country and there are bad ones.
There are good journalists and there are bad journalists. And then, there’s Dublin’s Evening Herald, which is simply a bully in newspaper form.
On Tuesday the paper ran with a front-page story headlined “THE WOMAN WHO STOPPED THE BUSES” beside a photograph of Gillian Kelly, a 27-year-old Dublin bus driver and NBRU union member.
At half-five on Monday morning, Gillian refused to drive the Number 4A route, one of two at the centre of the industrial action that has affected bus services in the north and west of the city.
The row centres on a unilateral decision by Dublin Bus management to change where drivers on these routes begin, change and end their shifts from Harristown Garage (near Dublin Airport) to the city centre, adding hours of unpaid travel time to the drivers.
And so, on Monday morning, a young working-class woman about seven months in the job was confronted by her supervisor and given an instruction to drive a bus on a disputed route. She could comply or she could stand with her fellow employees. In choosing to do the latter, she has been single-handedly blamed for the entire dispute by the Herald.
Then again, this is the paper that described then locomotive drivers’ union leader Brendan Ogle as “PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE” during the lock-out of CIE workers in 2000 so Gillian’s in good company.

In the last five years, a small number of internet blogs have become major players in political and social commentary in the United States in particular but increasingly so in Britain. Despite occasional and very foolish suggestions that the recent election would be the first one where blogging played a major role, the reality is that it is still largely a fringe news source in Ireland.
One of its most useful functions is not the creation or revelation of news but commenting on the inaccuracy, errors or dishonesty of reports in the Establishment media.
And in the case of RTÉ’s Hidden History ‘documentary’, The Killings at Coolacrease, a number of internet-based news sources have forensically dismantled both the programme and the supportive comments about it from Eoghan Harris in the Sunday Independent and David Adams and Ann-Marie Hourihane in The Irish Times.
Indymedia begins, begins mind you, with an over 8,000-word feature by local historian Pat Muldowney and includes photographs, an internal RTÉ memo, a transcript of the entire Liveline show on the issue, copies of e-mails sent to and from RTÉ and copies of other articles in pdf format. Unusually for Indymedia, the debate that follows is of pretty high quality and generally quite well sourced. Click on to: for more.
Another blog site, http://cedarlounge., whose political leanings might be guessed by the fact that it currently has an archive copy of the United Irishman from September 1972 as its lead story, takes on the commentators who supported RTÉ’s show. The autho/authors point to examples of hypocrisy, illogical thinking and outright bias in one of the best series of articles, supportive or critical of the show, I have seen.
Perhaps blogging commentary in Ireland is finally coming of age.

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