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1916 and tight relations of English and Irish

Published 05/10/2016

I write as an Englishman to congratulate an Irishman, Gavin Hughes, from Banbridge on his paper, Military Archaeologies of 1916 Command and Control: Case Studies from Mount Street Bridge to The Somme, delivered at The Ninth International Fields of Conflict Conference in Trinity College Dublin last Saturday.

It was a paper delivered with good judgment and fine sensitivity.

Dr Hughes compares the 7th (Robin Hood) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters at Northumberland Road and Mount Street Bridge on April 26, 1916 as they marched to the relief of Trinity College Dublin and the 16th (Irish) Division in its victory at Guillemont on September 3, 1916.

Northumberland Road in leafy Dublin 4 was the Somme for the Robin Hoods who were slaughtered there.

But we must face historical facts, however unpalatable, especially on so important a matter as the relations between England and Ireland.

The English in Dublin at Easter 1916 were there for the same reason that the great Tom Kettle was at Guillemont and Ginchy. They had volunteered to defend the rights of nations such as Belgium, whose sovereignty had been violated by the German invasion. The English fought side-by-side with the Irish throughout the war and often in their ranks.

They admired the Irish, loved the Irish and, in many cases, were married to the Irish. Indeed, the English were the great supporters of Irish Home Rule, from William Gladstone to Herbert Asquith, who from 1910-1914 was in coalition with the Irish Parliamentary Party under John Redmond, the disciple of the great Charles Stewart Parnell.

The tragedy of Ireland and England in the First World War is so profound that it makes reasoned discussion and debate difficult even in 2016.


Trinity College Dublin

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