06 August 2014

Remember lost lives – don’t glorify war, urges Ballagh

Today’s edition of The Irish Independent [6 August 2014] carries the following five-column photograph and report spread across the top of pages 14-15:

Remember lost lives – don’t glorify war, urges Ballagh

From left to right: Rev Patrick Comerford; Patricia McKenna, chairperson of the People’s Movement; artist Robert Ballagh; TD Clare Daly; John Molyneux, secretary of the Irish Anti-War Movement (IAWM) steering committee, and Jim Roche, PRO of the IAWM, at the launch of the movement’s new pamphlet, ‘World War I: What Did They Die For?’ Photo: Damien Eagers

Michael Staines

Irish artist and anti-war activist Robert Ballagh has called for all World War I commemorations to be stripped of military pomp in order to focus on the lives lost instead.

Mr Ballagh was speaking at the launch of the Irish Anti-War Movement’s new pamphlet World War I: What Did They Die For?

He said that such commemorations “glorify militarism and do no service to those who died or their families.”

“Personally, I find it offensive to see the descendants of the very people who sent these young men out to die standing there in their fancy military uniforms, with their polished medals and expressing a certain pride in this military tradition.

“It is sad that these people died. It is a tragedy that these people died but they didn’t die for any decent purpose whatsoever,” he added.

Mr Ballagh said Ireland’s decision to abstain from a vote establishing a commission of inquiry into current human rights issues in Gaza was an illustration that “under this Government we have at last abandoned neutrality as a force.”

The Anti-War Movement’s statement acknowledged the importance of remembering the sacrifice of the 49,000 Irish soldiers who died in the war but cautioned against using the commemorations to justify, “the ongoing militarisation of Europe or the current state of perpetual warfare being promoted by the major world powers.”

Other speakers at the event included former MEP Patricia McKenna; the president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Rev Patrick Comerford; academic John Molyneux; and independent TD Clare Daly.

Rev Comerford, whose grandfather contracted malaria during the war and died on his return home to Ireland, said that more people have been killed by conflict since the turn of the century than died during World War I.

“I think it is a waste of the lives of men like my grandfather that
thousands of people are being killed today in what is politely termed ‘low-level war’ but is actually a war of intensity against civilians,” he said.

“I think we must remember them with dignity, with solemnity and sorrow while remembering that the promises upon which the war was waged were sold out on a long time ago,” he said.

Note: the published caption transposes the identities of Jim Roche and John Montgomery

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