My county motion passed: inclusively & respectfully remembering “the Wild Geese” on 11/November

This council, recognising:

– the historical impact of the Irish who – like the Wild Geese – have fought abroad throughout the centuries, out of necessity or commitment;

– the sacrifices and traumas of both fighters and survivors of those conflicts;

– the diversity of our diaspora and national experiences;

– our significant UN peacekeeping commitments;

Will commemorate all such broader “Wild Geese” simply, inclusively, and respectfully on November 11 (“Armistice Day”/US Veterans of Foreign Wars/Remembrance Day)

My spoken statement at the Council:

“This motion is about trying to be inclusive and pluralistic. It is not about celebrating any military conflict or particular military institutions.”

“To give some personal background as motive: my Grandfather Michael O’Connell was in the 49th Reserve Regiment of New York; my Grand Aunt Annette and father’s cousin John O’Keefe were in the US Army in WWII; finally, my Godfather and Uncle Colm O’Kelly was in the RAF in Egypt after WWII.”

“I’d like it if these people could be included in a public remembrance. But I do think that unfortunately on this side of the Atlantic we get fixated on one symbol to the exclusion of all else.”

None of the people I just mentioned, for example, ever wore a poppy in their lives.

“That’s not to disparage anyone who does – I appreciate different families have different traditions, and I want to respect that.”

“But if we want to be inclusive, we should be respectful of our broader diaspora.”

“We should also be respectful towards people on this island, who might have had a very different or traumatic experience at the hands of certain military institutions. Their experience is valid too [1].”

“The reason I mentioned our UN involvement, is because after centuries of us having to emigrate, and fight in other peoples’ wars, I thought this was a fitting conclusion to the Wild Geese – a foreign military involvement we could all be proud of.”

“Thank you for your consideration if this motion.”

Further information:

[1] We should certainly consider the experiences of those who suffered awfully at the wrong end of British arms – for example, victims and survivors of the Ballymurphy Massacre:

Truth of the Para’s Ballymurphy massacre is finally being told – Irish Central

In a broader context, it’s worth remembering, that the same British state (Empire) being fought against in the IRA’s Operation Harvest, was the one that was torturing Barack Obama’s grandfather in Kenya – about five years prior:

Revealed: Britain’s torture of Obama’s grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama, a British soldier in the second world war, was locked up as a Mau Mau rebel in Kenya – The Guardian.

Note also – this council motion follows on from a Wexford motion adopted at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2014, that I was involved with drafting:

SF Ard Fheis motion 176 of 2014 (passed):

Generations of Irish have fled historical, social and economic tribulations at home by following the flight path of ‘The Wild Geese’ abroad. This has often been at great personal and family sacrifice, collectively showing great physical bravery, all-too-human vulnerability, and sometimes remarkable moral courage, from the Irish Brigades of Continental Europe to the San Patricio Brigade of Mexico, from the US Civil War to the Spanish Civil War, in wars of personal commitment, of international political catastrophes that devoured entire generations of the young, and in modern missions of mercy with the United Nations.

In acknowledgement of this, this Ard Fheis believes that Ireland as a whole – from this island to its global diaspora – should create its own inclusive symbols to commemorate this and remember such a legacy that are not merely derivative of another nation’s officially crafted attitude to one particular war.

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