TD takes issue with Ballagh's comments on war heroes

Mon, Oct 22, 2012, 01:00

FINE GAEL TD John Deasy has accused the artist Robert Ballagh of being unrepresentative and perverting republicanism in criticising Government plans “to balance” commemorations for the War of Independence with commemorations of the first World War.

Last weekend, Mr Ballagh told a gathering in Cork at an event to honour War of Independence guerilla leader Tom Barry that it would be wrong to mute the sacrifice and achievements of men such as Barry by balancing them with “other historical events which played no part in our struggle for freedom”.

But this week, Mr Deasy took strong exception to Mr Ballagh’s position, saying his own grandfather, Mick Deasy from Kilbrittain – who fought with Tom Barry and was the last survivor of the Crossbarry ambush – would have strongly disagreed with Mr Ballagh’s views.

“I would be from what I would think was a very typical Irish family – both my paternal grandfather, Mick Deasy from Kilbrittain, and my maternal grandfather, John Keating from west Waterford, fought with the IRA in the War of Independence,” said Mr Deasy.

“At the same time, I had three grand uncles from Bandon who fought in the Great War – Martin Blanchfield who was in the Munster Fusiliers and wounded at the Somme and his brothers, Michael who was in the US Corps of Engineers and William who was in the Royal Flying Corps.

“There would have been a lot of families like mine and both my grandfathers, like others who fought in the War of Independence, would be the first to recognise that many of those who went to fight in Flanders and elsewhere did so in the belief it would lead to Home Rule.”

Mr Deasy pointed out that Barry himself had fought with the British army in Mesopotamia, while many others who fought in the British army joined the IRA on their demobilisation and return to Ireland after the first World War.

“My point is that if you ignore the motivation of Irishmen who fought in the first World War, you’re re-engaging in a kind of historical segregation and I think you’re regressing back to petty side-taking between extreme republicanism and nationalism.

“Mr Ballagh says no one can deny the patriotic motives of the men who died in the first World War, but at the same time he really is denigrating their sacrifice as a kind of lesser event – his views are not representative of the vast majority of families with republican relations,” he said.