News Letters

Thursday 27 October 2016

Reassessing the tragedy of Ireland and England in WWI

Published 27/09/2016 | 02:30

Nationalist leader John Redmond: campaigned for Irish Home Rule. Photo by Independent News And Media/Getty Images
Nationalist leader John Redmond: campaigned for Irish Home Rule. Photo by Independent News And Media/Getty Images

I write as an Englishman to congratulate an Irishman, Gavin Hughes (from Banbridge, Co Down), on his paper 'Military Archaeologies of 1916 Command and Control: Case Studies from Mount Street Bridge to The Somme', delivered at The Ninth International Fields of Conflict Conference in Trinity College Dublin on Saturday, September 24, 2016.

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It was a paper delivered with good judgment and fine sensitivity, much as we might expect from an acknowledged expert on Ireland in World War I.

Dr Hughes compares the 7th (Robin Hood) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters at Northumberland Road and Mount Street Bridge on April 26, 1916 as they marched to the relief of Trinity College Dublin and the Sixteenth (Irish) Division in its victory at Guillemont on September 3 1916.

Northumberland Road in leafy Dublin 4 was the Somme for the Robin Hoods who were slaughtered there with horrendous casualties - something the British have been anxious not to talk about over the years since. But we must face historical facts, however unpalatable, especially on so important a matter as the relations between England and Ireland.

The English in Dublin at Easter 1916 were there for the same reason that the great Tom Kettle was at Guillemont and Ginchy. They had volunteered to defend the rights of little nations such as Belgium, whose sovereignty had been violated by the German invasion of August 1914.

The English fought side by side with the Irish throughout the war and often in their ranks - for example, with the Leinsters.

They admired the Irish, loved the Irish and in many cases were married to the Irish, as for example was Captain Frederick Dietrichsen of the Robin Hood Battalion, who was greeted and embraced by his wife Beatrice Mitchell, from Blackrock, and two little children as he proceeded amidst the applause of the crowd to his tragic death with his comrades in the fighting on Northumberland Road.

Indeed, the English were the great supporters of Irish Home Rule, from William Gladstone to Herbert Asquith, who from 1910-1914 was in coalition with the Irish Parliamentary Party under John Redmond, the disciple of the great Charles Stewart Parnell.

The tragedy of Ireland and England in World War I is so profound that it makes reasoned discussion and debate difficult even in 2016.

Dr Hughes has made a lasting contribution to that debate. It sets us further along the road to the peace and reconciliation that we still fervently desire.

Gerald Morgan

The Chaucer Hub

Trinity College Dublin


Leo's leadership ambitions

According to some commentators, Leo Varadkar has become a serious contender for the position of next Leader of Fine Gael.

Mr Varadkar was quoted last June as stating that President Michael D Higgins would have broad "cross-party support" if he wants a second term as President but he also stated that "it is too early to say whether another candidate might emerge".

Of course, President Higgins does not require any political party support to contest the next presidential election, as his Constitutional right to do so is automatic. He merely needs sufficient resources and a competent campaign team to win the necessary votes in the presidential election, which would be the only basis of true legitimacy for a second term.

Why would a politician ambitious to win the leadership of a large political party not seek to identify a range of compelling candidates for the role of President, with the promise of a different ethos, approach and style, rather than opting for the status quo?

Surely, this would be a mark of his credibility and influence, the range of his vision and whether he has an acute awareness of the characteristics necessary to enhance the reputation and international influence of the State that the party leadership candidate is seeking to govern.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary, Co Dublin


Loss-making Government

Several people have recently referred to Dublin Bus as a "loss-making enterprise".

However, many of those people are in Government - the greatest loss-making enterprise that has ever afflicted our potentially wonderful and successful country.

Richard Barton

Tinahely, Co Wicklow


Don't weaken planning law

The Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, 'Rebuilding Ireland', has much to commend it. Its full implementation is likely to make a serious impact on a crisis that is otherwise threatening to spiral out of control.

However, the proposal to amend planning legislation to allow large housing developments of 100 homes or more to go directly to an Bord Pleanala is a retrograde and unwelcome one.

This proposal will lead to a major weakening of the rights of local communities to have a voice in major planning decisions that impact on their community. These rights are enshrined in our legislation and supported by the legally binding EU Public Participation Directive. These legal rights should not be hollowed out or weakened. A statutory pre-planning consultation process with local authorities, mentioned in media reports, will not address the democratic deficit that will be created.

Builders and developers building 100 houses are not just engaged in the business of building houses. They are building a community. The expertise of local planners, and the statutory provisions of County Development Plans, along with local community inputs, are essential context for local decision making about such significant developments.

It is unacceptable that this well-grounded and well-informed local knowledge would be effectively removed from the local sphere of influence and decision-making on large developments.

An Bord Pleanála cannot and will not be a manageable forum for local engagement with projects in the way that the current planning provisions facilitate.

Of course, it is essential to streamline planning processes and remove any unnecessary administrative delays in approving housing proposals, whether these occur at departmental level, at local authority level or indeed within an Bord Pleanala. We are being asked to believe that this streamlining requires removing local citizen input. If there are resources available to gear up an Bord Pleanala for this body of work, why not invest that resource in strengthening and rebuilding local planning departments and leave our citizen rights alone.

Councillor Anne Colgan (Independent)

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council

Irish Independent

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