• March 24, 2010

Some may see this weeks decision by President Mary McAleese to honour Irish soldiers who died at Gallipoli in the First World War as a sign that Ireland officially is becoming more pragmatic about those Irish men and women who died serving the British military.

Certainly her move has been immediately welcomed by British ex-service groups in Ireland such as the Dublin Fusiliers and Somme Association.

In recent years the almost ritual fever of UK remembrance for long marginalised in Ireland has become more accepted. So is this just another step along the road of historical inclusion?

However, the very Office that President McAleese holds is firmly founded on the military effort of those who took up arms against the British.

By a historical paradox, within weeks of the Gallipoli campaign ending that same British Army was crushing with ruthless ferocity the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. Within days of the suppression of the Rising British Army firing squads were executing key leaders of the Republican movement.

There is something distasteful about an Irish President glorifying through remembrance members of a military machine which has so savagely repressed Irish people for many years of this century and continues (albeit in reduced presence) to occupy a part of Ireland.

It is also something of a paradox that the President honours British Army dead in a week when those murdered by the British Army in Derry on Bloody Sunday have been told they will have to wait longer to find out if the enquiry will finally label the British troops who killed them as murderers.

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