Q: Why are we hearing so much about the First World War at present?
A: That’s easy. It started yesterday.
A: I mean yesterday was the hundredth anniversary of the war. Britain declared war on Germany a hundred years ago exactly.
Q: Really? I thought the Germans were the baddies. I assumed they were the ones who’d have launched the war.
A: Nope. Actually the Kaiser was desperately seeking ways of not having a war start. Not many people know that.
Q: You can say that again.
A: Not many people know that.
Q: But why is there so much talk about it here in Ireland? It was England vs Germany, wasn’t it?
A: It was a World War. Lots of other countries were involved.
Q: Did Ireland declare war on Germany, then?
A: No, but thousands of Irishmen joined the British Army to fight in the war.
Q: Because they hated the Germans, right?
A: No, because in many cases they thought it would bring Ireland Home Rule.
Q: Did many Irishmen die in British uniform?
A: Something over 30,000 died.
Q: Mmm. Very sad. Quite a price to pay for Home Rule. Still, untold generations have benefited from their sacrifice.
A: Not really. Ireland didn’t get Home Rule.
Q: What? You mean the British reneged on their promise?
A: Something like that.
Q: And all those men died in vain?
A: Something like that
Q: So how did Ireland win independence?
A: Well the short answer is it didn’t, in that the six northern counties remained within the United Kingdom. But the twenty-six remaining counties won their independence because of the Easter Rising and events that flowed from it.
Q: Ah yes, I’ve heard of that. The GPO and the Proclamation and…It was in 1916, right?
Q: Which means there’ll be an almighty commemoration of that key event, seeing that it led to Irish independence, right?
A: Wait and see.
A: There are those who think it’s wrong to commemorate violence – it puts ideas in people’s heads.
Q: But wasn’t the First World War quite violent?
A: That’s different. That was the British Army fighting, not Irish revolutionaries
Q: So back to my early question: why the big fuss in Ireland about the First World War?
A: Two reasons, probably. One, so many Irishmen lost their lives. Two, the more attention is paid to the First World War, the less people will focus on paying homage to the men and women of Easter 1916.
Q: Why would they not want to honour the men and women who were key to the independence of the twenty-six counties?
A: It might start up discussion of other things.
Q: Such as?
A: Such as whether the Proclamation’s goals have been achieved a century later. Including the fact that six Irish counties remain as part of the United Kingdom.
Q: And we don’t want that, right?
A: Right. But don’t say that out loud, will you? It could get me in bother with the Irish government.
Q: Oh. Right. Mum’s the word. Smother 1916, that’s our watchword. Right?