Kevin Myers and “Our Lads”

Kevin Myers writes about two British army regiments newly deployed in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, (Irish Independent, 7th October). These are the Royal Irish Regiment and the Irish Guards. Kevin refers to these regiments as “Irish” as if the Irish people were involved in their direction. He points out that the war in Afghanistan is UN sanctioned and is supported by Irish Army Ordnance Officers as part of a NATO explosive ordnance disposal team.

I am not a supporter of neutrality. I consider it a national embarrassment and the hiding place of the moral coward. However, I think that Irish men should be members of the Irish Army as was my brother Peter, a retired Lt Colonel – with a pension! I do not think that pledging allegiance to another country is legitimate if one wants to remain Irish.

The Union Flag is not one I warm to. Imperialism, colonialism and racism are in its weave and texture. It is an emblem that Irish participants in British colonialism and empire building hid behind for decades and centuries. But, the real history of Ireland is the narrative of all it’s people not just the story of the Irish speaking mainly rural society. So the Union flag has a cache in our society among teh Anglo-Irish, and unionists on both sides of the border.

However, I consider the Irish soldiers in the British Army from a non-unionist tradition to be a group of mercenary adventurers with a James Bond licence. During the troubles, I know of Finglas residents who served in Down and Armagh in the British Army. IRA activists and British Army soldiers from the same Finglas streets – near neighbours! I am not inventing this in any way.

I have no objection to Irish Men joining the army in any state, once that state is not oppressing another or oppressing Ireland, directly or indirectly. In the constituency of Dublin Northwest, I know men who served in one of the British Army, the French Foreign Legion, the US Army or Marine Corps and some of these had also served in the Irish Army.

Ireland should be part of a European Defence Force – not neutral. I await that development. This Force should be under the command of the EU Presidency with a uniform only distinguished by a Harp etc on the name badge.

Sorry Kevin, but the British Army will never be “Our Boys”.