Honouring Redmond


Sir, – Philip Donnelly (August 18th) takes me to task for suggesting that Ireland should be slow to celebrate John Redmond’s role as recruiter for the British army in the first World War. He also accuses me of dishonouring the memory of the Irish soldiers who died. I have made it absolutely clear that I believe that commemorating those tragic deaths is right and fitting.

Honouring “the cause”, however, is another matter.

The first World War was fought to further the expansion and power of the British Empire – and for nothing else. Ireland never forgot the dead of the first Word War – that would have been a physical impossibility. It just did not celebrate Irish slaughter in Britain’s interest and it never should.

Blame for the more than 16 million deaths that resulted from this conflict, the vast majority of them in each country recruited from among the ranks of young working class men and agricultural labourers, cannot be attributed to Germany alone. France, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Turkey all had their own axes to grind, as of course did Britain, which dominated the world through its sea power and had an interest in crushing Germany before it became too threatening a rival.

James Connolly, the founding father of Irish Labour, in very precise terms summed up the aims of British prime minister Asquith in August 1914. “The British capitalist class have planned this colossal crime in order to ensure its uninterrupted domination of the commerce of the world. To achieve that end it is prepared to bathe a continent in blood, to kill off the flower of the manhood of the three most civilised great nations of Europe . . . Yes, this war is the war of a pirate upon the German nation.” (Irish Worker, August 29th, 1914)

Finally I’d like to assure Mr Donnelly that I have been active in Labour politics since I was a teenager and I have never felt the need for a green flag. Quite the contrary. My objection to the first World War is that it was a conflict in which the poor in every country were admonished that they must “do their duty” and were then sacrificed in vast numbers for the schemes of generals and “statesmen”. – Yours, etc,


Dáil Eireann,

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.