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Colonel's idea of reconciliation still difficult for some

Published 21/04/2015

COLONEL Patrick Mercer, who served eight tours of duty with the Army here, believes it would be the "ultimate reconciliation" if the Taoiseach were to visit the graves of British soldiers killed in the suppression of the 1916 Rising.

I'd have difficulty reconciling Mr Mercer's attitude with that of Tom Kettle, the ex-MP for an Ulster constituency, who died leading a platoon of the Dublin Fusiliers in Ginchy in France in 1916.

Kettle's poem, Reason in Rhyme, was a reply to an Englishman who urged that Irishmen forget the past. According to Irish writer Robert Lynd, a contemporary of Kettle, it expressed Kettle's mood to the last.

Kettle wrote that free, Ireland might be England's friend, but unfree could not cease from "the toil of hate" and when the time came to attend England's banquet:

Soldier with equal soldier must we sit,

Closing a battle, not forgetting it,

With not a name to hide,

This mate and mother of valiant "rebels" dead

Must come with all her history on her head.

We keep the past for pride:

No deepest peace shall strike our poets dumb:

No rawest squad of all Death's volunteers,

No rudest man who died

To tear your flag down in the bitter years,

But shall have praise, and three times thrice again,

When at the table men shall drink with men.

(roman) DONAL KENNEDY

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