What follows is a letter written to the editor of the Donegal Democrat newspaper in November.
Letter to the Editor.
Wear a White Poppy
In Tuesday's the 9th of Novemberís Donegal Democrat, Paddy Harte was making his annual tribute to those who died in the First World War, I don't doubt he means well, but it is clearly time for a more balanced view. What comes across from Paddy is a glorification of war, and of course he's going to deny it is, but I'm sorry that is how I see it.
First let me deal with the way he deals with the history, he takes men who clearly fought for different ideas, and tries to put them all in the one camp, this is a disservice to all of them. May I deal with Tom Barry, he points out that Tom Barry was in the British Army since 1913, this is so; it was form his experiences and treatment by the officer board of that army that Tom Barry became disillusioned, came back to Ireland and fought the British Army for the rest of his life. In his autobiography he deals with his disillusionment, his youthfulness and the misguided politicians who sent them to war, that should be accepted by all, he knows that he was duped and gave himself no credits for being so.
Then Paddy tries to unite two brothers in death William Kent and Eamon Kent, Eamon was executed by those wearing British Army uniforms, he signed a document that gave thanks to our gallant allies in Europe, the same people that his brother William was fighting against. To put these two men together in this way is a disservice to the two of them. William Kent was killed for the King a year after his brother was executed by the King's men. Get off on stage Paddy and become real.
Paddy goes to Flanders every year, did he ever lay a wreath to our gallant allies in Europe? No. Did he ever lay a wreath to any of the 601 executed at dawn, especially the young Irishman executed for insubordination, one for not putting on his hat on. If you were Irish you had a 25% more chance of being executed for insubordination, desertion, ect, than a man from England, Scotland or Wales. Men from the two traditions were executed by a cruel officer class, for very little indeed. Anyone who was executed, was put in an unmarked grave, and their families at home got no pensions, they where left destitute. What does Paddy Harte have to say about that?
Paddy Harte said if Kevin Barry had been four years older he would have been in Khaki, how dare you Paddy Harte, he would have been in the 1916 rising. This young man, a student Doctor, was captured as a prisoner of war, badly treated and then executed. You cannot insult our glorious dead in this way, those who died in Flanders, could not lick his boots; that is no disrespected to those who died in Flanders, only to you Paddy Hart for the distortions. It is time to put a bit of respect, decency, balance and truthfulness into the whole topic. Those who went to Flanders were not answering Ireland's call; they were answering England's call and that of the King. The poor lads were duped.
Should we remember them, of course we should, but what should we not forget? We must never forget the perpetrators of the war, the British, the German, the Russian monarchists and capitalists. They sent a whole generation of European youth to their graves needlessly. The Germans and the Russians have no monarchies now, good, but the British have, and still send young men to die in needless war. Thankfully to the men and women of 1916 Ireland no longer has to do that.
The wearing of a white poppy would be fitting tribute to these people, the Red poppy is the poppy of the British Legion, and is to all British soldiers who died anywhere in the world, including Ireland. Should we honour the Black and Tans? No we should not, nor should we honour those who came after them, up to the present-day.
Finally I would like to deal with another aspect of the war; it was not a war for the freedom of smile nations. In 1915 Turkey, a peaceful, country was invaded, by two of the monarchistsí countries, Britain and Russia. Thousands died in Gallipoli,those sent there included 1000 Dublin Fusiliers, of whom only 12 survived. One of the survivors I knew and I worked with three of his sons, his name was John Whelan, he was a corporal and was credited with saving the other 11 lives, he was promoted on the battlefield to the rank of major, but when it came to him been demorped he was reduced to a sergeant, as he wasn't a commissioned officer in the first place. This is the class nature of the British Army to this day. They treat all working people shamefully.