Letters to the Editor: 'The dead of the Great War should be enough to inspire peace on our island'
At 11 o’clock on Sunday morning I attended solemn Eucharist at St Bartholomew’s Church in Dublin 4. I did so wearing for the only time this year a poppy.
I hope that in doing so I did not give offence to anyone, but as we all know it is difficult not to give offence to someone for some reason or another.
More important than not giving offence in this case is the honouring of the dead in WWI and I am sure that most of us are borne down by the immensity of individual sacrifice and the immensity of the suffering involved.
My intention in particular was to honour the war dead of Lydbrook in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire and those of Trinity College Dublin, who lost their lives.
Growing up in a village such as Lydbrook, I got used to the names that were read out in church and outside the Memorial Hall.
It was both a proud and melancholy experience and in the 1950s I recall an old lady in central Lydbrook who was still mourning the loss of her only son in the conflict.
Since 1968, I have become more familiar with the 454/457 names in the Hall of Honour in Trinity College Dublin.
Their story is yet more melancholic than that of the Lydbrook dead.
They were mostly from wealthy backgrounds, and were well educated and well informed.
They were outraged by the violation of international law in the invasion of Belgium in August 1914 and by the German atrocities in Belgium, now also well documented by two Trinity historians.
After September 18, 1914 they were fighting for Irish Home Rule seemingly assured to them by the royal assent.
For the most part they were patriotic Irishmen (plus one Irish woman). Of the Trinity College Dublin dead, for example, 286 were members of the Church of Ireland, whereas only 23 were members of the Church of England.
In addition the 44 Catholics, 29 Presbyterians, 13 Methodists, five Unitarians, three Congregationalists, three dissenters or con-conformists, three Quakers, two Baptists, one Episcopalian and one Plymouth Brother in our non-sectarian university were by and large Irish.
Assuredly they did not fight for the partition of Ireland but to prevent it and for this reason their sacrifice has a special sense of pointlessness or vanity overhanging it.
But I refuse to believe that so great a sacrifice was in vain and I continue to believe that in their deaths we may find inspiration for the peace and reconciliation in Ireland that still elude us.
Trump and Putin rain on Armistice parade in Paris
THE 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice is a time to unite and recognise the bravery and reality of warfare as a step to preventing any further such events.
As part of the remembrance, many of the world’s leaders took a symbolic walk in the rain down the Champs-Elysées in Paris, but two were missing – presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
The concern is that despite “playing nice” at the moment these are two leaders of the countries most likely to start fighting.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this was “due to security protocols”, although it may have been due to the rain affecting Trump’s hair do. Such a flippant suggestion is obviously inappropriate but so too is not remembering the fallen and the injured. Yes, there are people who may attack them but what of the other world leaders – are they not important enough to be worried?
Symbolism is important and unless Trump and Putin are willing to be leaders, not only of their own countries but of this walk and the search for peace, then they should recognise their failings and resign.
Remember the fallen and broken, not just in walks but in making strides to prevent any further battles.
Wanted – a policy that puts brakes on tractors
I recently moved to Ireland from Australia. One aspect of living here that I find rather bizarre is the number of tractors, often pulling heavily loaded trailers, allowed to travel on public roads.
These tractors pose an obvious traffic hazard. On a number of occasions, I have seen frustrated drivers take foolish risks in an effort to pass these slow-moving tractors. In one case, a possible fatality was avoided by mere seconds.
Queues in excess of five vehicles behind these tractors is not uncommon, with the notion of pulling over to allow other vehicles to pass seeming to evade their drivers.
Furthermore, these large tractors and their loads are frequently exceeding the width of the laneway upon which they travel, resulting in dangerous obstruction to on-coming traffic.
To make things even worse, it is not rare to observe their drivers engaged in texting or using one hand to take/make a phone call.
There might be an attempt at justifying such travel of these oversized vehicles if Ireland’s important agricultural industry relied upon their use on public roads.
However, clearly this is not the case. All loads I have seen being carried or pulled could have been effectively done so by conventional road vehicles such as tabletop trucks.
Is the risk to loss of life or injury – in addition to the inconvenience and loss of time to road users – not worthy of a policy rethink by those responsible for Irish road safety and management?
Perhaps subsidies for purchasing conventional load-bearing vehicles might offset the downsides of restricting the use of tractors on public roads?