Letter: Remembrance

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report on the Messines Ridge peace tower (10 November), did not mention that the Irish Parliamentary Party leader, John Redmond, unilaterally committed 170,000 of the Irish Volunteers on 3 August 1914 to fight against Germany. In all, over 300,000 Catholic Irish took part, with 40,000 killed and more VCs won, in proportion to the numbers fighting, than any other part of the Empire.

However, Lord Kitchener, Minister for War, who was of a rack-renting Anglo-Irish family in Ireland, refused to allow these men to have their own divisions, unlike the Ulster Protestants, because he regarded the Catholics as "not loyal" and insisted that they be distributed throughout other formations.

To claim that some of the Catholics were shot by the IRA upon their return can only be anecdotal, since the IRA evolved in December 1918 from the survivors of the Irish Volunteers, who returned home to find that Lloyd George had reneged on the Irish Home Rule Bill, which had received Royal Assent in September 1914 but had been put into abeyance until the end of the conflict, with Redmond's approval. Had Redmond withheld the Irish Volunteers until 1915, when Britain was desperate for manpower, he could have had Home Rule for the asking and these men would have come back to an Irish government.