Studies is honoured that Marie Collins has contributed to this issue ‘What the Murphy Report Means to Me’ http://t.co/BC5TXEzIEB
We are in a season of momentous commemorations. The present issue of Studies is focused on the First World War, which broke out a century ago. By the summer of 1915, hopes of a short conflict were rapidly fading. The brief 1914 Christmas truce on the Western Front, the inspiration behind Kevin Puts's new opera Silent Night, which had its European première at the Wexford Festival in the autumn and about which Tom Mooney writes in these pages, soon became only a bitter-sweet memory. The war, all further such eirenic interludes strictly forbidden from on high, lasted more than four horrific years and, by the time it finally ended in November 1918, four empires had collapsed and some 8,600,000 soldiers had died on the battle-field, many thousands of Irishmen, serving in the British army, among them.
Like the present writer, many of those reading these lines had family members who fought and possibly died in the war. But Ireland has been slow to honour their sacrifice. John Redmond's call to the Irish Volunteers at Woodenbridge in September 1914, to enlist 'in defence of right and freedom and religion', but also as an indirect aid to promoting the cause of Home Rule, led to controversy and a split in the ranks of the Volunteers. The upheaval of Easter 1916 and the disastrously ill-judged execution of the leaders meant that, almost overnight, the dominant political narrative in Ireland was irrevocably altered. Honouring the patriots and honouring the soldiers who had served in the armies of the empire against which the patriots had rebelled became almost impossible to reconcile.
In a number of the contributions to this issue of Studies, we hear echoes of this painful clash of loyalties as experienced at the time by individuals such as Francis Ledwidge and Tom Kettle and in whole communities such as Wexford, John Redmond's home town. In due course, following the annihilation of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the General Election of 1918 and the transformation of politics it produced, official policy and propaganda and the national mood clearly indicated which allegiance was now, alone, acceptable.