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4 December 2008 Edition

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Irish media recruiting sergeants for British Army

For the best part of this year the Irish print media has engaged in a relentless recruitment exercise in the 26 counties on behalf of the British Army. Articles about the adventurous life of squaddies, the craic and camaraderie in the barracks and the soldierly solidarity that overcomes the normal sectarian barriers have filled pages of newsprint, with The Irish Times being chief but not sole recruiting agent. This week, RTE’s Northern correspondent, Tommie Gorman, who should and does know better, got in on the act with a special report from Aldershot Barracks, (home of the British Parachute Regiment) glorifying the Irish Guards and their activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tommie interviewed some of the battling Irish lads who have joined the Brits’ so-called Irish Guards, naming several of them in a radio and TV broadcast and depicting them as cheerful young fellas from the four corners of Ireland. Sure, wasn’t one of them from Belfast’s Shankhill and wasn’t he teased by the others from Dublin, Galway and elsewhere in Ireland about who was a Catholic and who was a Prod – they put rosary beads under his pillow, would you believe – great craic altogether.
There was a time when the media pushed the British Government’s line about the British Army being a referee between ‘warring religious tribes’ in the North. Now, a standard line in articles inspired by the British Army’s press handlers and recruitment officers, is that these sectarian divisions evaporate when Catholics and Protestants come together to invade other peoples’ countries and, well, kill them. I never knew peace and reconciliation could be so exciting, not to say violent.
Gorman, whose critical faculties are normally deployed with forensic concentration when interviewing Sinn Féin representatives, casually and cheerfully described how the young Irish lads had ‘served’ in Iraq and were due to do so again, in Afghanistan. There was, of course, no questioning of the role of the British Army’s occupation of these countries and the carnage inflicted on the local population.
Indicating also that Tommie had politely put aside his sense of irony for the occasion, the RTÉ man gushed about the picture of Michael Collins – in the officers mess. Without wishing to indulge in the gung ho militarism that seems to have become so acceptable in the media recently, one has to say that the only thing Collins would ever have wanted to hang on the wall of a British Army officers mess was one of its occupants.
It is an inescapable fact that the rash of articles – and now RTÉ coverage – devoted to life in the British armed forces is a direct result of the recruitment crisis in Britain. That Irish and British-based media should collaborate in this mission to send young Irish men to kill and be killed in imperialist excursions abroad is shameful. That the so-called Irish national broadcaster should use tax payers’ money to assist is too much. Actually, Gorman gave the game away when he actually stooped to giving out the pay rates on offer and also when he casually remarked that the deepening recession would accelerate the recruitment of Irish young people.
At least Irish people can now see that the overwhelming message sent out by the media throughout nearly 30 years of war in the North, namely that all political violence was totally abhorrent, can be seen for what it was. What they actually meant was that violence by ordinary people against the military might of an occupying army is wrong. Once it’s the other way around, then those who postured as pacifists horrified at any act of violence, effectively become bloodthirsty war mongers cheering on acts of wholesale carnage in the age old quest for Western supremacy abroad. Do editors think the great majority of Irish people cannot see through all this?
Tommie and other Irish media recruiting sergeants for the British Army will, one imagines, shed crocodile tears when the next young Irish man comes home in a box from the Middle East to his grieving relatives but will they accept any responsibility in the matter?

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1