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Sunday, June 05, 2005 

Recognising fallen UN veterans

Richard Waghorne comments on the recent unveiling of a memorial by Minister O'Dea to Irish casualties of UN service, especially the following paragraph:

"The Irish military, though much restricted by public opinion and the insistence of our political elite on the conditions for deployment of the triple lock, does enjoy good standing in the world for the professionalism of its service, something that the UN is struggling to defend after the scandals of its units in the Congo. Funding for our armed forces is simply insufficient for the jobs we ask them to undertake, let alone those we should pursue but do not, as we have discussed in the past. But resourcing rows are for another day. Let's remember the men and women of our military, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the Republic. "

Most of this is comprised of sentiments (which I share) on how the Irish Army has brought credit on this country abroad through faithful UN service, bringing protection to the people of South Lebanon and others. The Defence Forces were for a long time scandalously neglected, with the Air Corps and Naval Service suffering in particular, being ill-equipped even for the ATCP tasks given them by politicians. Happily, those times have now mostly ended. The DF are still not well-equipped with war-fighting equipment, but then they really don't need to be. Who believes that we will need to invade the North, or resist a British invasion?

But, on the rest of what Richard says...

The triple lock isn't something imposed by the political elites but rather a (popular) guarantee against badly thought-out, militaristic adventurism of the type exemplified by the Bush administration in Iraq. Our so-called 'neutrality' (in reality, deliberate isolationism) was a natural expression of our strengthening sovereignty from the British (ironically enough, Collins was proven right in his "freedom to achieve freedom" by De Valera, of all people).

The tasking of the Defence Forces abroad has been shifting somewhat in the past decade, with the mission to Bosnia under SFOR and others where the lines are beginning to blur. The Congo deployment in the 1960s, while a hard-fought peace-enforcement (as opposed to peace-keeping) mission was still unambiguously under UN control so can't really be compared to modern developments.

The proposed EU battle-groups to be set up will test the now-traditional limits further: the checks and balances on the deployment of these groups of course reflect the reality of the EU, with the larger countries able to railroad or stall based in many cases on the left-over, grubby interests of former colonial times. How long will national politicians, even in Fianna Fáil, hold the line of our neutrality? We were bought out by the EC a long time ago.

And, on a final note, how will national sentiment adjust to our (likely) ending up in a British battle-group? With Irish troops serving under a British general, eventually even the sight of British troops (other than the Gurkhas who've visited here in recent times) back on sovereign Irish soil? We know that the usual suspects in Fine Gael, the Sunday Independent and elsewhere will rub their hands with glee at such a development, but how about the ordinary Irish citizenry? I can't imagine English squaddies going down well while on the tear in a town like Kildare, guests of the Irish Government.

The contortions of rhetoric needed to cover for this will be interesting: perhaps Tony Blair can be prevailed on for another UK national apology to ease the way...

"Libel"-Richard Waghorne
"Attack blog"-Damien Mulley

About me

  • An early-thirties male Irish technologist living and working in Dublin, I'm a former (recovering) member of both Fianna Fáil and the Roman Catholic Church.

    I'm not a member of any political party these days, but my opinions can be broadly categorised as 'lefty' and republican. I am also a former member of the Irish Defence Forces.

    Please feel free to check out the FI Fie Foe Fum group blog, where I was once a regular contributor, and the Cedar Lounge Revolution, where I can usually be found in the comments.

    (This blog and its contents reflect only my own personal opinions as a private citizen, and not those of any other person or organisation.)

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