Monday 1 June 2009

A proud military tradition

One of unionism’s conceits is that the ‘Ulster British’ have earned, and continue to earn, their place in the United Kingdom though their blood sacrifices on behalf of ‘queen and country’. The Somme is used as a sacred event – a seminal moment at which the debt owed by Britain to their loyal Irishmen became irrevocable. Flags hang in (Protestant) churches in Northern Ireland, loyal orders march ostensibly to commemorate their sacrifice, and the disloyal are told that the weight of this history trumps all other considerations.

Unionists remember with pride the militarists with Irish unionist backgrounds – people like Montgomery and others.

But that was then, and this is now. Britain is still vainly fighting colonial wars, but the contribution made by ‘loyal Ulster’ is verging on the pathetic. Far from joining the British army in droves, and sacrificing themselves for … well, if not queen and country any more, at least for US world hegemony – the loyal young men of Northern Ireland appear to be holding back.

Coincidentally on the same day that a Belfast born British soldier wasted his life in Afghanistan, the BBC have produced a useful breakdown of the British dead in the two colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It shows that Northern Ireland, far from the forefront of the sacrifice, is happily leaving the real work to the working class youth of the English industrial cities:

Out of 344 deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan between October 2001 and May 2009 only three have been Northern Ireland born – less than 1%. Northern Ireland makes up some 3% of the population of the UK.

So any romantic dreams of Britain’s debt to the brave soldiers of its most loyal colony should be rapidly reassessed. Britain’s soldiers are from Britain – from Birmingham, from Newcastle, from Glasgow, from Manchester, from Leicester, from Colchester, and from a hundred other places in Britain. The contribution from the loyal tribe is negligible and irrelevant – they are now more likely to be living off the financial transfers from Britain than fighting for Britain. The blood debt no longer exists – what remains to tie Britain to Northern Ireland?


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you're right here.

If the overall population of NI as a pecentage of the UK's is 3% and some half of that 3% is Catholic (certainly in the army's recruitement age) then a perentage of 1% of deaths from NI as a percentage of army deaths is about right. It basically boils down to one or two deaths either way (a horrible way to say it, I'm sorry).

You're right, it does seem that Protestant men are not over-represented in the armed forces (that's down to us Welsh and Scots I'm afraid) but it's not far off. Would it be fair to presume that a porportion of the men who would in other parts of the UK join the army in the Protestant NI community may join the Police etc in stead?


hoboroad said...

Cymro we have 50/50 Recruitment in the PSNI now so not as many of our police officers come from the Protestant Community anymore.

hoboroad said...

A lot of Young Protestant men seem to prefer to rot on the dole than serve in Her Majesty's Armed Forces.And can you blame them fighting Israel's wars in the Middle East is no fun.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't there been 3 or 4 (maybe?) soldiers from the Republic killed the last few years serving in the British army?

hoboroad said...

We lose more soldiers in car accidents in West Germany said by William Whitelaw to Martin McGuiness at Cheyne Walk Chelsea July 1972.

hoboroad said...

Maybe young people in the ROI are not as lazy as Northern Irelands Protestants.Or they could come from a family with a history of service in the British Armed Forces.I do know that some ex-servicemen from the Republic handed back medals after Bloody Sunday in protest on
what happened that day.

Anonymous said...

The real tragedy for EVERYONE is that all these wars are needless and should have been avoided.

hoboroad said...

Eddie McGrady claims £17,000 in Hotel bills on expenses.Nigel Dodds claims £90,000 on expenses over 4 years.

Anonymous said...

The Unionist conceit that they are owed more by Britain, is just that, a conceit.

More men from what is now the Republic died in British uniforms in both wars than from the North. The Republic has greenwashed itself out of the picture for reasons of its own mythology (well, chiefly de Valera's).

Kevin Myers wrote a fine article called Dublin Remembers Too in the Speccie some years back, which deserves circulation to every unionist household in N.I.

And I agree with this piece

Hopefully when Fianna Fail get their comeuppance at the next election some outdated attitudes south of the border can move on too.

Anonymous said...

The stereotyping in some of the comments here is hilarious! "Lazy Northern Irish Protestants" and the reference to Nigel Dodds' expense claims, to be specific. This is a prime example of what is wrong with this country and why we will never amount to anything; finger pointing and blame is all we focus on. As a WASP by birth, I am not proud of my heritage, but nor will I disown it. I would like this province to move past this rubbish; the Troubles are over and until both sides of the community admit there are/were faults on both sides, we will never flourish. I hope children will never live through the torment we endured from 1950 onwards. Peace and prosperity to all.