Irishmen in British uniforms


Madam, - It seems that Capt Donal Buckley (Irish Army, retd) has widened this debate to include Irishmen in any uniform (September 22nd). He writes to promote the incongruously named Mayo Memorial Peace Park, due to be opened next month, which will commemorate "Co Mayo's 20th-century fallen officers, enlisted ranks and civilian casualties".

Among those to be commemorated are those who fell in the first and second World Wars, in Korea, and Vietnam. There will apparently be individual monuments to those who fell with the Connaught Rangers, the Irish Guards, Commonwealth and US forces. Amazingly, Capt Buckley claims it is a symbol of Ireland's maturity that those who "died for us" will be commemorated. He makes the grandiose claim that they died for "Mayo, Ireland and the free world".

In what way did a soldier fighting for the US in Vietnam "die for Mayo, Ireland and the free world"? How did a soldier who fought in any of Britain's imperial wars "die for Mayo, Ireland and the free world"? At this remove one can only guess at the motives of these men. They enlisted, mainly in the British army, for many reasons - some for lack of employment at home, some for adventure and glory, and others because they were duped by British propaganda.

The Mayo Memorial Peace Park appears to be part of a trend which aims to associate Ireland more closely with former colonial powers, particularly Britain, and conveniently to gloss over their murky deeds. The argument seems to be that all Irishmen who died in wars are heroic and deserve to be publicly commemorated while moral arguments must be cast aside for the sake of "reconciliation". I suggest that the purpose of such memorials should be examined more critically, particularly when public money and land are given over to them.

I note that President McAleese will open the park, thereby giving it the imprimatur of the Irish people. On the evening prior to the opening, the drums and pipes of the Irish Guards will take part in a remembrance concert. It is ironic that a regiment of the British army will be represented at this concert, while no mention will be made of the atrocities perpetrated by that army in many parts of the world, including Ireland.

Capt Buckley was also instrumental in organising an event in 2004, which commemorated Sgt-Maj Cornelius Coughlan. This Mayo man was a member of the imperial British forces in India that put down a mutiny. He was awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery. At the commemorative event the Irish Army was represented and the then Minister for Defence, Michael Smith, as well as the British ambassador attended. This bizarre ceremony ignored the reality that Coughlan's regiment used savage methods to quell rebellion.

It is patently obvious from Capt Buckley's letter that there will be no place in the Mayo Memorial Peace Park for those Mayo men and women who died for the freedom of Ireland. His references to "parochial politics" and "right-thinking people" are breathtaking in their arrogance. It may surprise him to learn that many people are saddened to witness the glorification of colonial militarism. - Yours, etc,

MARK URWIN, Kilmartin Lane, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15.