Military covenant: “I may need your help publicly on this…”

For the second year in a row, an Irish Government Minister has taken part in the Battle of the Somme commemoration at Belfast City Hall – this time it was the turn of Labour TD, Joe Costello.  Also present were the Northern Ireland First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, and representatives from the Ulster Unionists, the Alliance Party and the SDLP.  The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó’Muilleoir, has continued his party’s boycott of the official ceremony. [Are you serious?! – Ed]  As the BBC report notes

Earlier the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó’Muilleoir, laid a wreath ahead of the ceremony.

Belfast City Council also passed a motion “paying gratitude to the brave men of the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division”. The motion added that their “heroism will never be forgotten”.

Mr Costello said he was pleased to travel to Belfast to take part in the commemoration.

The Labour TD said he had come to “commemorate the bravery and courage of Irish men throughout the island of Ireland who fought and died”.

Mr Robinson told the BBC the Battle of the Somme was an “enormous event from a Northern Ireland perspective”.

In other culture war news, inside the chamber last night, the council voted 21 to 20 in favour of a policy going ahead of flying the Armed Forces Day Flag six days each year.  From the News Letter report

The flag has just been flown for six days from City Hall, leading up to and including Armed Forces Day on Saturday – the second successive year this has been the case.

However, the issue has divided city councillors, with Sinn Fein and SDLP opposed to it ever flying from the building.

The Strategic Policy and Resources Committee voted last month for a policy that the flag would not fly at all.

However last night, at a meeting of the full council, unionists and the Alliance Party voted by the narrowest of margins, 21-20, for a DUP amendment that the policy going ahead should be that the Armed Forces Day Flag flies six days each year.

Sinn Fein councillor Gerard O’Neill said the people he represents had a negative view of the military.

Meanwhile, the BBC’s Stephen Walker reports that NIO Minister Mike Penning has told the NI Affairs Committee at Westminster that the NI Executive have failed to respond to an invitation to  join a working group examining implementation of the armed forces covenant.  From the BBC report

[NIO Minister Mike Penning] said he had received support from political parties in Northern Ireland but no local politicians had come forward to attend a covenant working group.

North Down MP Lady Hermon asked why and he replied: “I don’t know “.

He added that “it would be useful to say the least if they sent a representative”.

His comments were endorsed by Lady Hermon who said input from the Executive would be “extremely useful”.

Conservative MP Oliver Colville suggested that members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee write to the Executive to ask why no-one has come forward.

Mr Penning said he did not want the issue of the military covenant in Northern Ireland to become “a political hot potato”.

He said he had had positive discussions with members of local parties and told MPs that he had also spoken to Deputy First Minster Martin McGuinness. He said that he told Mr McGuinness: “I may need your help publicly on this and he said ‘you have got it’ “. [added emphasis]

Hmm…  Has anything changed since this November 2012 Belfast Telegraph report?

Asked how Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be ranked in terms of the successful implementation of the covenant, which was enshrined in law a year ago, [Mark Francois MP, the Veterans Minister] said: “We have a particular challenge in Northern Ireland because of some of the Sinn Fein-run authorities’ views on the covenant and what it represents.

“In Northern Ireland, this is particularly sensitive and difficult, so if you’re talking about a scorecard we would have to take that into account.”

The military covenant represents Britain’s duty of care to its armed forces, in return for the sacrifices made in the line of duty.

The coalition Government enshrined the covenant in law for the first time, which requires the Defence Secretary to make an annual statement on what the Government is doing to support the armed forces.

This week Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to meet members of the DUP to discuss the issues around the covenant in Northern Ireland.

Responding to a question from the DUP’s Jim Shannon, the Prime Minister said: “It is something I have spoken about with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. I know that there are issues about its implementation, but I hope that it can be done.”

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  • michael-mcivor

    Noticed that ex-UUP leader Reg Empty sir is crying into todays Irish news about how this event was notable because the Union flag was banned from flying on city hall for the first time on July 1 in 97 years-

  • tacapall

    I would honour their memories and their bravery. Sacrificing their lives for a belief,past and present, that was manufactured by the corrupt politicians and those bankers, those who control what is known as the crown. Aided and abetted by those blue blood British establishment types, who control the distribution of information. A bunch of parasite wealth hoarders who’s families have for centuries plundered and pillaged half the planet, through slavery and murder in the pursuit of profit and privilege. All wars are ultimately fought by these people over potential profit for the few. Incredibly brave honorable men from the masses, the subjects, the poor and the uneducated have for centuries been fooled and hoodwinked into sacrificing their lives ensuring that that status quo, always remains or increases. I honour their courage and I honour the memory of every man woman and child who ultimately lost their lives ensuring that the bankers and investors and those blue blood type, amass more profit.

  • cynic2

    Its simple.

    Nationalist MLAs didn’t go because they oppose it in principle

    Unionist MLAs didn’t go because

    1 they aren’t paid for attending
    2 they don’t see enough votes in it
    3 its not an opportunity to wear a Sash

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Can anyone clarify for me whether Peter Robinson actually had a grandfather of a great grandfather at Theipval on 1st July 1916?

    ‘Belfast City Council also passed a motion “paying gratitude to the brave men of the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division”. The motion added that their “heroism will never be forgotten”.’

    Not forgotten, perhaps, but hardly repeated. The lesson most Unionists in the 20th Century seem to have learnt from their much praised Ulster Division’s “sacrifice” was to avoid emulating their ardour. Most readily used the decision not to extend conscription to Norn Iron in 1939 to avoid fighting in WWII. In 1944 ROI citizens fighting Hitler numbered 27,840 while those from Northern Ireland fighting against against the Axis numbered 26,579. So rather less participation than our neutral neighbour!

    The post-war hypocracy of it all sickened many of those who did join up from the province and I remember having prominant celebrants pointed out to me by famly members who did fight (and were decorated) in both wars with the back stories of how these cowards had avoided the fighting, with as much gusto as they were mouthing platitudes afterwards. And how much real help any needy ex-service man could expect from them.

  • Starviking

    SeaanUiNeill,

    whilst the Eire citizens fighting Hitler might have outnumbered by around 800 persons, for have to remember that the South had about 3 million people, the North had around 1 million. Not a bad contrbution at all.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Actually, Starviking, the real comparison is with the contribution of the province in WWI. WW2 brought out all the worst time-serving no more than we have to characteristics of the post partition Northern Ireland.

    What you must never forget is that each and every southern volunteer who fought against Hitler breached their countries policy of neutrality. No-one in the north had any such restraint, other than their own desire to avoid playing a part in stopping Htler. And remember, I’m recording the attitude of men I remmeber from Northern Ireland who actually fought. Now, while it was undoubtedly a “fine contribution” individually from those who fought Hitler and National Socialism from BOTH communities in the north, this should not be appropriated to represent a “fine contribution” by the Province. Individuals die to preserve freedom, not abstractsions. It is those in the north who shirked their duty, the hypocrites who stayed safely at home, shielded by the sacrifice of others and then (nad now) mouth self-glorifying platitudes about the “fine contributions” of others who actually suffered.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    One short correction of the above,

    “WW2 brought out all the worst time-serving, do no more than we have to do for teh dole from Westminister, characteristics of the post partition Northern Ireland.”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And just to bring this back to why I posted here,

    “Can anyone clarify for me whether Peter Robinson actually had a grandfather of a great grandfather at Theipval on 1st July 1916?” Or any of the other grandees of the DUP? I really would like to know.

  • Starviking

    Seann,

    you made a a quantative statement on the relative contribution of the North and South in WWII, and were wrong. Then you try to add a qualitative aspect to that, that Eire volunteers were breaching Southern neutrality – which is rubbish. Southern neutrality concerned the state, not the citizens. Then, you add hearsay to the mix, that Northerners were time-serving.

    I perfer to stick with the maths. If we look at the basic figures:

    26,579 Northerners out of around 1 million:

    around 27 per 1000

    27,840 Southerners out of 3 million:

    around 9 per 1000.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Starviking, my dear fellow, its not actually a numbers game! That’s just statistics which come lower then damned lies! I was making the comparison to highlight the attitude of INDIVIDUALS north and south who made individual choices to fight Hitler or to cower behind the moral courage of others. That is why the figures relate, more individuals from neutral Eire fought than “British Citizens” in the north. More individuals.

    Now what I’d really like to know is how do you actually feel on the issue of non-combitants riding on the back of the sacrifice of others to further their political careers. That is the main point I’m making here, and it deserves an answer. Or do you feel that you share in the sacrifice of others simply because you were born close to where they were born, perhaps?

    The real issue is that just over fifty thousand individuals from the 32 counties of Ireland made choices to fight against Hitler while their neighbours did not. However, only the non-combitants in the north have attempted to glorify their role by claiming a part in the actions of others.

    When I was assembling creative teams for my film projects, if someone had come to me with a CV mentioning films he had no part in I’d have accused him of fraud. Its the same in public life. And I feel that I am simply acting as a mouthpiece for the opinions of soldiers and airmen now dead, who cannot themselves answer these chancers.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And just to bring this back yet again to why I posted here,

    “Can anyone clarify for me whether Peter Robinson actually had a grandfather or a great grandfather at Theipval on 1st July 1916?” Or any of the other grandees of the DUP? I really would like to know how many of those mouthing self-glorifying platitudes during the marching season about the “fine contributions” of others who actually served really know anything at all about either war, other than what they see on TV. The phrase about “dancing on the graves of others” comes to mind.

  • Reader

    SeaanUiNeill: The phrase about “dancing on the graves of others” comes to mind.
    Sometimes it seems as though most of the people of the island dance on the graves of others on several occasions throughout the year. Time-sharing, obviously. And different groups pick different graves. See also: “shroud waving” and “graveside oration”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed, Reader! and my concern is with all of those from all and every “tradition” who use the courage or the suffering of others for their own political ends.

  • BluesJazz

    SeannUiNeill

    Just to mention that (Captain) Terence O Neill was mentioned in dispatches for heroism in Normandy. As was (Major) James Chichester Clarke, who was wounded at Anzio.Both were in the Irish Guards.

    The military record of Ian Paisley, who was of an age to volunteer, is unfortunately not on record. Maybe he was a conscientious objector?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you BlueJazz! Yes I know. And I hope that anyone reading notes that my comments refer not to “Unionists” as such but to “Non-combitant Unionists or their decendants who borrow the medals of others on important occasions.”

    I have some mutual Friends with Paisley Mór and must ask them to ask him! I do not remember ever seeing him wear a row on miniture medals. I know of at least one early member of the DUP who had served in the navy, but that was post war. My impression in general is of a group of people who are decendants of those who believed that their skills could be more usefully employed at the home front, ho humm…..

    But I would be delighted to discover otherwise!

  • Starviking

    Seaan,

    Starviking, my dear fellow, its not actually a numbers game! That’s just statistics which come lower then damned lies! I was making the comparison to highlight the attitude of INDIVIDUALS north and south who made individual choices to fight Hitler or to cower behind the moral courage of others. That is why the figures relate, more individuals from neutral Eire fought than “British Citizens” in the north. More individuals.

    Seaan, you can claim all statistics are lies, you can claim that it it the individuals that count – but if it is about the individuals then why bring Eire and Northern Ireland into it at all? You seem to want to portray Northerners as less committed to the fight against Hitler than Southerners. In that case statistics count – as it is the numbers in comparison to the population that counts.

    Let’s imagine two villages, A and B.

    A has a fighting age population of 1000, B has a fighting age population of 2000.

    A sends 1000 off to war, B sends 1100.

    A sends 100% of it’s fighting age population to war.
    B sends 55% of it’s fighting age population to war.

    Whilst the individual efforts and sacrifice of the volunteers of villages A and B are the same, you cannot say that B, in sending 1100 volunteers was better than A, sending 1000 volunteers.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Starviking, you’re really not getting it! Try actually reading what I’ve written rather than developing bizarre and quite irrelevant arguements to claim that attempts to defraud the public are justified! “When I was assembling creative teams for my film projects, if someone had come to me with a CV mentioning films he had no part in I’d have accused him of fraud.” Are you saying that the guy who claims involvement in something he has not participated in has a right to claim it?

    Just a few questions I’d really like answers to;

    i) Do individuals or abstractions such as communities or states do the actual fighting or dying? In this context, what do you mean by northerners or southerners?

    As I understand your point, you are claiming that a group of people can claim by right the benefit of another individuals actions or suffering as their own. Next time I have a really foul bout of flu, I’d be most grateful if you would take it on as readily!

    I said “The real issue is that just over fifty thousand individuals from the 32 counties of Ireland made choices to fight against Hitler while their neighbours did not.” I am attempting to point out what most people of an older generation,certainly those who actually fought in the war, knew by experience. Comapred to WWI, far fewer people from the six counties joined up to fight Hitler, and among those who did there was a post war perception that they were poorly treated by the “stay at homes” who thought them mugs!

    ii) In this context the orations by those who did not fight extoling the bravery of Ulster must be highly offensive to anyone with any moral sensibility. What are your feelings on that, please?

    I’m not claiming that one group as such was any more committed than another. Just where do I claim that? I’m refering to individuals! You it apperas to me, are the one claiming benefit for groups. I’m simply stating that more individuals from neutral Eire served than “Subjects of the KIng.”

    The issue I’m raising is that prominant people in politics claim direct benefit from the sacrifice of others. There are numerious examples of this in the ROI also, for example with 1916. Its what politicians do.

  • Starviking

    I’m not claiming that one group as such was any more committed than another. Just where do I claim that?

    Seaan, you made the claim here:

    In 1944 ROI citizens fighting Hitler numbered 27,840 while those from Northern Ireland fighting against against the Axis numbered 26,579. So rather less participation than our neutral neighbour!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh, starviking, do I really have to spell out everything for you in simple terms?

    What I meant in my first comment was that the assembled individuals of Norn Iron (geographic area of ground) produced rather less individual volunteers than the individuals of our neutral neighbour (geographic area of ground) , or have you failed to notice in your sophistry of statistics that In 27,840 individuals fighting against Hitler is1,261 less than 26,579 fighting against Hitler. But I dare say you believe that in combat one Ulsterman was worth three from the Republic! Or perhaps they were three times harder to kill. Or one-third of an Ulsterman could defend a fox-hole in Normandy or Egypt to the same degree as a volunteer from the Republic. If so, please let me know which third?

    OK, you do not want to even attempt to answer the really significant questions above! You seem to want to go on believing that you have some right to claim credit for the actions of others, like the guy just out of film school with “Raiders of the Lost Arc” on his CV.

    While I think I’ve made my point by now about the use by politicians of the actual suffering of others, I’m still really concerned to discover what you, starviking, as a thinker must feel about the real issue here.

    The only grounds that anyone could claim that Norn Iron or the Republic made any contribution to a war, as opposed to those individuals of those states who were directly involved, are the grounds of collective benefit from individual action and collective responsibility for such action also. So such a person must also believe that the sectarian murders of the troubles on both sides were entirely justified because each individual murdered quite properly represented for the killer either the state or the insurgent body. I take it you are aware that this is the logical consequence of the position you argue?

    You really cannot claim all the benefit of someone elses actions and “history” without also taking on the consequences and responsibilities of those actions. For myself, I believe that such reifications, where the individual is subsumed into an abstract collective identity, always leads to some sort of atrocity in the end.

    But the question still is, did any of these politicians who will be extolling the deeds of a collective abstraction during this decade of commemmorations have any meaningful links with the once-living individuals who actually did the “work”?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’ve just noticed one of those sentences that get written the wrong way about when one is attempting to say about three things at once:
    “or have you failed to notice in your sophistry of statistics that In 27,840 individuals fighting against Hitler is1,261 less than 26,579 fighting against Hitler.”

    Should read:

    “or have you failed to notice in your sophistry of statistics that 27,840 individuals fighting against Hitler is 1,261 more than 26,579 fighting against Hitler.”

    Poor starviking seems to be having trouble following me when it’s grammatical and the right way round, so I’ve felt obliged to correct it.