Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Signing the Irish Anti-War Movement statement
on the commemorations of World War I

At the press conference held by the Irish Anti-War Movement to issue a statement on the World War I commemorations (from left): Canon Patrick Comerford, President, Irish CND; Clare Daly TD; Patricia McKenna, former MEP; Robert Ballagh, artist; John Molyneux, historian; and Jim Roche, IAWM (Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times)

Patrick Comerford

Last night we turned off the lights at home at 11 p.m. and lit not one but two candles for two grandfathers in our families who were involved in World War I: Stephen Edward Comerford of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who caught malaria in Thessaloniki and was sent home in May 1916, only to die in January 1921; and Patrick Culley of the Royal Army Medical Corps, who was in the trenches in France, and returned home, probably a victim of what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder, but was then called “shell shock.”

This morning, I was one of the speakers, along with Clare Daly TD, the artist Robert Ballagh, the former MEP Patricia McKenna, and the historian John Molyneux, at a press event in Buswell’s Hotel, Dublin, to present a statement by the Irish Anti-War Movement marking the centenary of World War I.

I am one of the signatories of the statement, which has been signed by more than 75 public figures, including the singer Christy Moore, the actor Sinead Cusack, Robert Ballagh, Patricia McKenna, John Molyneux, and other people from Irish cultural, academic and political life.

The statement calls on the Irish government not to use the occasion of the commemorations to justify the slaughter of World War I.

The Irish Anti-War Movement also launched a new pamphlet, World War 1: What did they die for?. The pamphlet is a collection of essays by the composer Raymond Deane, John Molyneux, Jim Roche of the IAWM and the film maker Steve Woods.

The statement notes the importance of commemorating the dead, including the 49,000 Irish soldiers, of World War I, but also stresses that the supposed good cause for which they died should be exposed as imperial slaughter. The signatories call on the Irish government not to use the commemorations to justify the slaughter of World War I, the on-going militarisation of Europe or the current state of perpetual warfare being promoted by the major world powers.

Jim Roche, PRO of the IAWM, who chaired the press conference, said: “We absolutely believe that the memory of the 49,000 Irish soldiers who died in World War I should be commemorated, but we wish to challenge the dominant reasons given to justify this horrific slaughter and to bring an anti-war perspective to the narrative. We should look back in sadness and anger at the way all those soldiers were manipulated into fighting their fellowmen for what was ultimately one big lie, orchestrated for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.”

He continued by noting: “We believe that such an anti-war perspective is all the more urgent in this current time of serious international tension and seemingly perpetual war and that is why our statement now signed by over 75 people calls on the Irish government ‘to ensure that this anniversary is used to expose the real reasons behind World War I, to analyse the senseless succession of wars in the intervening hundred years, and to promote peace and international co-operation in an effort to end all war forever’.”

The statement

August 2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. Far from being a “war to end all wars” or a “victory for democracy,” the war was a military disaster and a catastrophe for humankind which left 16 million dead and 20 million wounded, many horribly so. Britain alone suffered almost 900,000 military deaths and a further 124,000 civilian deaths. Life in the trenches was a living hell. Desertions were punished by firing squad. Those who survived were deeply scarred with many suffering debilitating long-term effects. The war became a testing ground for new mechanised techniques of mass killing with the development of tanks, gas warfare and aerial bombing that encouraged huge profiteering through the armaments industry. In the US alone, for example, war profits saw the creation of 21,000 new millionaires.

The dominant, simplistic justification for World War I is that it was a tragically necessary expedient to halt German domination of Europe. We believe it is important to remember that this war was driven by the major imperial powers’ competition for influence around the globe. It was an unnecessary slaughter conducted for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. Many of the lies told to justify the war on all sides at the time resonate today as young men are cajoled into fighting wars for spurious reasons.

We believe it is vitally important that the sacrifice of the 49,000 soldiers from the island of Ireland who died in World War I should be commemorated. We also believe that the supposed good cause for which they died should be exposed for the imperial slaughter that it was. We are not in any way disrespecting the memory of dead Irish soldiers by criticizing the architects of this carnage but we dispute the revisionist narrative idealising the ‘good cause’ that these soldiers died for, a narrative often used to supposedly bridge the nationalist and unionist traditions.

We call on the Irish government not to use the occasion of the commemorations to justify the slaughter of World War I, or to justify the ongoing militarisation of Europe or the current state of perpetual warfare being promoted by the major world powers. In a time of serious international tension and seemingly perpetual war, we call on everyone, but especially Governments, to ensure that this anniversary is used to expose the real reasons behind World War I, to analyse the senseless succession of wars in the intervening hundred years, and to promote peace and international co-operation in an effort to end all war forever.

www.irishantiwar.org

Christy Moore, Singer/Songwriter
Sinead Cusack, Actor
Robert Ballagh, Artist
Felim Egan, Artist
Raymond Deane, Composer
Dr Andy Storey, Lecturer UCD
Revd Canon Prof Patrick Comerford, President Irish CND
Prof Kathleen Lynch, UCD
Prof Em Helena Sheehan, DCU
Dr Kieran Allen, Senior Lecturer UCD
Richard Boyd Barrett TD
Clare Daly TD
Mick Wallace TD
Finian McGrath TD
Trevor Hogan, former Irish Rugby International
Patricia McKenna, former MEP
Prof Em James Anderson, Queen’s University Belfast
Derek Ball, Composer
Cllr Gerry Carroll
Aileen Cashman, Consultant
Roger Cole, Chair PANA
Prof Em Farrel Corcoran, DCU
Prof Michael Cronin MRAI
Cllr Ciaran Cuffe
Charles Daly, School of Computing, DCU
John F Deane, Poet/Novelist
Renate Debrun, Artist
Mel Duffy, DCU
Prof Mary Gallagher, UCD
Paula Geraghty, Trade Union TV
Prof Luke Gibbons, NUI Maynooth
Cllr Karl Gill
Anthony Glavin, Writer
Dr David Gray, School of Computing, DCU
Dr John Gray, Senior Lecturer, London University
John Godfrey, Musician
Cllr Melisa Halpin
Dr Rory Hearne, Department of Geography, NUIM
Marnie Holboro, SALIS, DCU
Dr Edward Horgan, PANA
Goretti Horgan, University of Ulster
Assistant Professor Stefan Hutzler, TCD
Fergus Johnson, Composer
Fred Johnston, Writer
Dr Sinead Kennedy, Lecturer, NUIM
Frank Keoghan, General President, TEEU
Gearoid Kilgallen IAWM
Dr Diane Kirby, University of Ulster
Dr Conor Kostick, Research Fellow, TCD
Prof. Kathleen Lynch, UCD
Cllr John Lyons
Dr John McKenna, School of Computing, DCU
Cllr Tina McVeigh
Dr John Molyneux, Historian/ Writer
Paul O’Brien, Author/Historian
Dr Brian O’Boyle, Lecturer
Hans Christian Oeser, Literary Translator
Dr Peadar O’Grady, Child Psychiatrist
Ronan O’Leary, Film Maker
Dr John O’Regan, Senior Lecturer, Limerick University
Barra O Seaghdha, SALIS, DCU
Kieran O’Sullivan, Treasurer, IAWM
Jim Roche, PRO IAWM
Mary Russell, Writer
Dr Ryoko Sasamoto, Lecturer, DCU
Cllr Brid Smith
Ailbhe Smyth, Senior Lecturer, UCD
Cllr Sonya Stapleton
Colm Stephens, TCD
Peter Tansey, Architect
Memet Uludag, IAWM
Steve Woods, Film Maker
Michael Youlton, Vice-Chair, IAWM

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