I was watching the evening news on RTÉ a few minutes ago and they had a thoughts-provoking item on it. Two thoughts, to be exact.
No, it wasn’t the item where they showed shots of the broken bricks and burnt cars in Ballyclare, or the item where Enda Kenny is heard during the election campaign promising the people of Roscommon that he’ll stand by their A + E unit at the local hospital (that’s the same hospital that will, by government orders, close its a + E doors tonight). No, the one that got me was the item showing ceremonies in Dublin and Limerick and a few other places honouring those Irishmen who had died in wars – including the Irishmen who’d died in British uniform. Thoughts-provoking indeed.
The first thought was the prominence given to the fact that this time, Irishmen in the British Army were included in the honouring. There was even a top brass chap from the Irish Army telling us how the visit of QE2 had been tremendously helpful in bringing Britain and us together, and a British Army chappie saying he hoped we’d all stay friends. My thought was, if those who fought against the British Army get as much honour and attention as those who fought with them, they may consider themselves lucky. We can’t airbrush British Army Irishmen out of existence and we’d be stupid to try; but isn’t it getting a bit OTT, the simple-minded emphasis that’s being given, again and again, to the value of their sacrifice?
The second thought that hit me is a bit broader. When the conflict here was raging and since, we were repeatedly told how important it was to turn from violence and solve problems by political means. Sound advice. But might there be a teensy contradiction, then, in showing lines of uniformed men carrying weapons, veterans who used to carry weapons, the head of state herself, solemn music, a woman singing ‘Tis of Thee My Country’ or some such, all in honour of men who were trained to solve political problems by killing other people and died in doing so or threatening to do so?
Except…Maybe there are some kinds of killing and violence in pursuit of political ends that are deserving of ceremony and praise, and others that merit only contempt. If so, scary. I mean, what if you got the two mixed up?