Wide-ranging article in the Sunday Times Comment: Liam Clarke: Nationalist support must not be undermined again that looks at changing attitudes within the nationalist and republican community to those who served with British Forces in two World Wars. Something that wasnt widely covered in the media this week, although it was carried by the Irish News, the NI chairman of the Royal British Legion attended an event organised by Coiste na n-Iarchimi, the republican ex-prisoners group.
From The Irish News Article on Friday:
A representative of the Royal British Legion was one of the speakers at an event on remembrance organised by a republican ex-prisoners organisation yesterday.
The conference examined the theme of commemorating the Irish sacrifice in the two World Wars and the reasons why the nationalist tradition has difficulties in identifying with the wearing of the poppy and the traditional Armistice Day ceremonies.
Chris Carson, Northern Ireland chairman of the Royal British Legion, told the conference his group had recently arranged for northern ex-servicemen to attend a ceremony at the war memorial in Drogheda in memory of three hundred local men who died in the Great War.
Sinn Fein councillor Tom Hartley said that in the changed climate of the peace process it was now possible for republicans and nationalists to remember the victims of Flanders and Gallipoli.
The conference at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast was organised by republican ex-prisoners group Coisde na Iarceimi.
From the Sunday Times article:
Eamon Phoenix, the historian, told how the support of Irish nationalists for British wars was undermined and transformed into outright opposition to the British link by events such as the treatment of demobbed soldiers after the first world war. Many nationalists who got jobs in the shipyards were violently expelled as disloyal infiltrators by sectarian mobs despite their military service.
That radicalised many but, even so, support for the British armed forces persisted within nationalism for years.Until 1925, for instance, a rally of the Ancient Order of Hibernians was addressed, each Remembrance Day, by Sir James Craig, the unionist prime minister. The tradition ended abruptly when he pushed his luck too far and alienated the avowedly nationalist group by telling them that they must support the principles of unionism.
That was a bridge too far and, as the DUP comes to grips with Sinn Fein, it may care to reflect on Craigs mistake in pushing nationalist co-operation past what could be delivered. This is not the first time nationalists have been willing to work with unionists to achieve stability. There has always been a willingness to give practical support to the institutions of the state while fully intending to change them by democratic means as soon as they can.
Also in the Sunday Times article, the moving story of How Roy Garland and Gusty Spence helped Martin Meehan find the grave of his grandfather, Camillus Clarke, who died in Belgium during WWI.
(In Bold A.U.)