Withdrawal of Defence Forces from D-Day commemoration in Mayo

A strange decision

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – The explanation given by the Department of Defence for vetoing participation of the Defence Forces in a D-Day commemoration in Co Mayo is patently spurious. The department is quoted in your front-page story as saying that the Defence Forces participate in the National Day of Commemoration and therefore participation in D-Day commemorations would “be contrary to policy” (“Defence Forces pull out of Blacksod D-Day commemoration at last minute after officials intervene”, News, June 8th).

However, the Defence Forces participate in the annual Easter commemoration of the 1916 Rising. Is the Rising not also covered by the National Day of Commemoration? That suggests that the “policy” referred to by the department is highly selective in its application and does not rule out participation by the Defence Forces in other commemorations as the department, in its insular wisdom, sees fit. – Yours, etc,

FELIX M LARKIN,

Cabinteely,

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Dublin 18.

Sir, – It is unsurprising the Government would pull out of participation in the proposed D-Day commemoration to be held to commemorate the contribution of 21-year-old weather forecaster Maureen Sweeney from Mayo to the success of the D-Day landings. However, the reason given that the “Defence Forces participate in the National Day of Commemoration on the Sunday closest to July 11th, and participation in the D-Day commemoration would therefore be contrary to policy”, raises an interesting question about honouring the past.

The National Day of Commemoration was initiated to honour Irishmen and Irishwomen who died in past wars or on service with the United Nations. This exclusive and politically correct phrasing does not remember foreign nationals who lost their lives as a result of belligerent action while serving on board neutral Irish-flagged vessels during the Emergency period 1939-46. All those who lost their lives were awarded posthumously the Mercantile Marine Service (Valour) Medal. The total figure for foreign nationals lost on Irish-registered vessels resulting from belligerent action during the Emergency is 25, 22 of which were British/NI. Robert Sumler, aged 16, from Fleetwood in the UK, is the youngest seafarer to be lost through belligerent action while serving on an Irish-registered vessel during the Emergency.

As we go forward on our peace journey, it will be interesting to see how political Ireland deals with the past. – Yours, etc,

PETER MULVANY,

Clontarf,

Dublin 3.