Tonight, as happens every Wednesday night for the last eight years, I dropped “the three amigos” down to the barracks in Clonmel for their few quiet pints and their weekly chat. The three people I am referring to are army veterans of this state, who have regaled me with yarns and stories over the years of their time serving in the Irish Army. My Father is 83 years old, as is his comrade, and then you have the “you’ster” as he’s a few years younger .
Tonight I found it hard to hold back the tears, as the sombre atmosphere induced by the news of the Barracks closing engulfed the four of us. As usual they put on brave faces, but I knew they were heartbroken. Between them they have served this country in the Congo, Cyprus, Lebanon and on the border of our own country during the troubles.
As the daughter of a soldier, I can remember as a child lying awake at night worrying about my Father’s welfare as he was sent away from home yet again in the service of his country. This he did willingly as his loyalty and that of his comrades has always been unquestionable.
I had the privilege of accompanying my Father to the remembrance day for Congo veterans last year in Baldonnel, and how proud all those brave gentlemen were on that occasion, when for the first time their country decided to acknowledge the sacrifices made by them in the service of this country.
As I was driving home tonight after dropping the three of them off at their beloved “mess” it occurred to me that when you look at the institutions on which this state was built, the Irish Army is one of the few that can hold its head up with pride, as its record worldwide in the UN is exemplary. It has been involved in missions all over the world, and the standards it has adhered to are exemplary. Unfortunately, as you and all your readers are aware, the same cannot be said for the other “pillars” on which this Republic was built.
I think it is somewhat ironic, that a government with a Fine Gael/Labour coalition party in power, should be the ones to decide on the demise of the Irish Army Barracks in Clonmel. This town after all is where the Labour Party was founded. At least Labour politicians in other towns hit by these cutbacks had the “spine” to resign rather than agree with these cutbacks. In Clonmel we are still waiting.
It has been acknowledged in the media that the south-east has been very heavily affected by unemployment and recession in general. Has any government official actually perused the cost of the closure of this barracks to the local economy, and the cost in the future to the social and economic fabric of this locality. That is not even taking into account the cost factors of a major site in the centre of a historic town being left to degenerate into an eyesore. A site that has had a barracks in situ since 1650! That houses memorials to war dead whose families still reside in its shadow.
But what is more worrying is the erosion by political decision making of the Irish Army in general. Is there an agenda here that the Irish people are not being made aware of? God knows we have learned the hard way that our politicians’ track record on honesty and transparency towards Irish citizens cannot be held up to the light. Why Oh why do we as citizens of this nation continue to elect the mediocre, and allow them to continue to impose their “harsh decisions” on us the majority, while they continue to feather their own nests to our cost?
I have never written to any paper before, but this decision has made me so angry, that I had to voice my anger by writing this letter. I am a member of a family of nine, and was reared to treat people with dignity and respect. My Parents also taught us that any society should be judged on how it treats the weakest in that society. When you look at where the knife is falling in Ireland today, it is obvious that when you see cutbacks to services to the elderly, the Irish Army (who are not allowed to be political), special needs, mental institutions, primary and secondary education the list goes on………… the priorities of those in power and the ethics that I was brought up with are planets apart.
I apologise if this letter is emotional rather than rational, but I had to write how I feel. I never thought I would feel ashamed to live in this country, but today being in that car for one of the last times, in the privileged company of these old comrades, for the first time in my life I came very close to it.
Instead of strong leadership we seem to have a government of Yes men to the EU, Ministers who allow overpaid public servants to make decisions they should be making, and political representatives who bow and kow-tow to the very institutions that got us into this mess in the first place. Are they truly representing the democratic rights and beliefs of the Irish people, were they elected by us to do what they are doing?
We as a people need to re-evaluate what kind of a society we consider is acceptable to us as Irish citizens. It is us as taxpayers who have bailed out the institutions that have failed us, are we to sit back and let people we elected continue to unravel the social fabric of Irish society to the extent that the weakest in that society suffer most? I for one consider that unacceptable, and I know that the moral conscience of the majority of Irish people would agree. We all know times are hard, but short term solutions have long-term consequences. Please you public representatives out there, have the courage to see the big picture, and make decisions based on the good of all, and the future of a society that deserves better.
Mise le meas,