Grim days back in 1909.

The Newsletter is reporting on remarks made by Mary McAleese last night that young Irish men joined the British army to escape poverty rather than any sense of patriotism.

She referred to the “grim days back in 1909” when SIPTU’s forerunner, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, had been founded by Jim Larkin.

She said that the world he had lived in back then was one where “the struggle was against starvation, disease and exploitation, where the lack of education of the masses was matched only by the ignorance of the economic and political elites”.

President McAleese continued: “Here was what Thomas Kettle would memorably describe, less than a decade later, as ‘the secret scripture of the poor’ that would drive tens of thousands of young Irish men into the British Army to sacrifice their lives so that their families could eat.”

Kettle was a nationalist Home Rule politician and journalist, barrister, writer, poet and economist who died at the Somme.

Jeffrey Donaldson says she isn’t accurate and Ken Magenness describes her remarks as a ,

“second faux pas” – her first, he said, being her comments four years ago that Protestant children were taught to hate Catholics in the same way Nazis despised Jews.

So is she accurate or is this a second faux pas as Ken Magennis suggests?


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