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26 November 1998 Edition

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Jingo fever

By Sean Marlow

It may have fizzled out now (except in the letters page of the Irish Times) but for the past month we have been subject to a barrage of media-driven jingoism berating us for not enthusiastically wallowing in World War 1 commemorations.

These same politically-inspired pundits like Kevin Myers, Gay Byrne, John Bruton et al, while happy to glorify the mass extermination of young Irishmen, Germans, British, Australians and millions of others in this imperialist war, are the same people who take a high moral tone in vilifying the ``blood sacrifice'' of 1916 and subsequent phases in this small nation's struggle for freedom.

There WAS a major difference between 1916 and 1914-18, but not the one that Myers and co would have us believe. In Ireland's liberation struggle, its military leaders were prepared to do their own fighting and dying rather than order others to do it for them.

Contrast the courage of Padraig Pearse, Liam Lynch, Bobby Sands and Mairéad Farrell with that of the British generals who forced their canon fodder soldiers to march into machinegun fire. There were no commemorations for those poor bastards who were stuck in filthy trenches subject to years of artillery fire They suffered shell-shock (now known as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) and were taken out and shot at dawn for cowardice - on the orders of their superiors safely back in HQ.

As with so many other issues, James Connolly accurately analysed the campaign to recruit Irish Volunteers to the British war machine: ``All of the kept newspapers constituted themselves recruiting agents for the British Army, and every effort was made to stampede the Volunteers into unconditional acceptance of Mr Redmond's blatant offer. Many thousands of recruits were obtained for the British Army during the first fortnight of the jingo fever promoted by the Home Rule press and wirepullers, companies of Irish Volunteers marched in parade order to see reservists off by the train and ship, their bands, to the astonishment of everyone and horror of most, played ``God Save The King'' and all sorts of erstwhile rack-renting landlords and anti-Irish aristocrats rushed in to officer these Irish Volunteers whom they formerly despised''

Irish republicans have no objection to the dead of any war being remembered - very much the opposite - but we don't want it turned into an excuse for glorification of imperialist warmongering as the wearing of the red poppy of the British Legion implies.

The display of this partisan emblem is enforced on BBC and UTV presenters while the white poppy of British pacifists and, of course, the Easter Lilly, commemorating Ireland's dead, is banned. So much for parity of esteem.

Interestingly, and showing that there is a political agenda at work here, the castigating of Irish nationalists for not commemorating World Wars is not extended to Unionists who have forgotten those thousands of Protestants who bravely gave their lives 200 years ago in the United Ireland movement.

The motivation for this selective remembrance seems to be linked to the renewed campaign by 26-county Army generals, establishment politicians (including the now defunct DL) and journalists like Stephen Collins of the Sunday Tribune, to abandon Irish neutrality and join the so-called Partnership For Peace. This outfit, despite the innocent-sounding name, is a front for the NATO military alliance, which still retains the option of nuclear strike in its military strategy.

The Chief-of-Staff, Lieut Gen Dave Stapleton, this week went even further - or maybe was just being more honest. He openly called for Irish participation in the WEU as a fore-runner to joining a future European Army. No doubt this army would be used to send our young people to be slaughtered and to slaughter others in future ``resource wars'' against ex-colonial countries in the developing world.

Have we learned nothing from the horror of World Wars I and II?

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1