Kevin Myers: Almost from independence, we abandoned our duty to defend
Fifty years ago today, Irish troops on UN duty were landing in the Congo, and though much of the Ireland of 1960 is gone, a few things survive from that time.
Perhaps the most important is the sense of patriotism that drew people from civilian life to the Defence Forces, when potentially better careers, with better prospects of war fighting, awaited (and still await) would-be Irish soldiers in the British army. But such careers do not satisfy the single, fundamental appetite that sends an Irish cadet to the Curragh, or a soldier to Cathal Brugha Barracks, now or in 1960: patriotism.
Last Friday's ceremony at Baldonnel to commemorate that earlier generation of patriots should have been graced with a C144 Globemaster, of the kind that took them to the Congo. It didn't show. A neat little parable for, half a century on, our Defence Forces still lack lift despite economic growth unparalleled in Europe since the German Wirtschaftswunder. This is both pathetic and immoral. For throughout this time, we've cadged planes and pilots off other countries -- even God help us, Chad and Ukraine -- just as we cadged lifts off the Americans 50 years ago.