Approx 350,000 Irish participated in WW1, more than 35,000 of them perished
The political landscape changed in their absence while fighting WW1 in Europe. Rather than returning heros, very many were ostracised as traitors
They joined the war effort while Ireland and it’s people were under British rule. Those who survived and returned, found a country in violent upheaval, fiercely fighting its own great conflict – a civil war between those who supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and those who didn’t
Many WW1 soldiers were victimised either physically or economically. Between 1919 and 1922, at least 200 were murdered because they had joined the British army.
Economically, the 1919 unemployment ratio of ex-servicemen was 46% in Ireland compared to just 10% in Britain
Most of those Irish who survived WW1 never spoke of it for the remainder of their lives. Many either remained ‘away’ or left Ireland in the following years
On the Sunday prior to Remembrance Day, veterans gathered to parade to a requiem mass and a service at both Dublin cathedrals – Catholic and Protestant and were attended by Irish political representatives.
The singing of the British national anthem and the display of the Union Jack at these events caused a great deal of distress to participants; Imperialists exploited the occasion as much as extreme Nationalists. Over the years, in the Irish consciousness, the poppy and Remembrance Day have become associated less with respect for those who died in war and wrongly confused with a statement of political allegiance
It is only with the Northern Ireland ‘peace process’ and ‘time’ that the need to honour our brave ancestors with due respect has triumphed
The Irish Soldiers in WWI by Bridget Haggerty
WW1 Research Guide – Myles Dungan on tracing Irish WW1 Soldiers