EX-AMERICAN soldier and Rosscarbery resident, James Sikora, has a plan of action to put Kinsale on the military map. He wants to commemorate the achievements of Irish soldiers. No, not our national heroes but the Micks and the Paddies who were part of British and US sponsored carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf and Vietnam!
Mr Sikora’s organisation, the Irish Veterans Historical Research Centre, intends to build an ‘Irish veterans memorial museum’ that will tell the story of ‘Irish men and women, and those of Irish descent, who served and who are still serving in various military forces’. In other words, in foreign armies! As a non-sectarian, non-denominational, massive tourist attraction, it will create jobs and be a force for ‘Irish reconciliation’. Wow!
Oh, and Mr Sikora says the project will need ‘significant funding’. So, he’s appealing to people with Irish connections to get involved and to honour those (the soldiers) who have gone before them.
Why? Because ‘a huge national blind spot about the Irish contribution to modern conflict’ still remains, he said. We should be proud of our foreign fighters and their stories, and ‘we must be brave enough to address historical reality, not hide from it,’ he added.
His group already has secured ‘an agreement in principle’ from the US government to display military hardware, and has been promised two helicopters: a Huey gunship that was used in Vietnam and a Chinook that also saw service in Vietnam.
Indeed Kinsale is not the only town that wants to honour Irishmen hired to serve a country other than their own. Ennis Town Council, for instance, in conjunction with the Irish Vietnam Veterans Memorial Project, is planning a memorial to the Irish who ‘served in Allied military service in South East Asia’ and to the 2,500-army personnel who were Irish or of Irish descent in the Vietnam War.
By a strange coincidence, President Obama also wants to pay tribute to Vietnam veterans and has designated the next ten years as the time-period in which to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War – admirably fitting in with Mr Sikora’s proposed military project in Kinsale.
But in the United States, Obama’s plan has outraged large sections of a public that continues to condemn American politicians for prosecuting a brutal, pointless war that killed 58,000 Americans and more than four million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians. They argue that the consequences of the bloodletting shaped American society in a terrible way, and that the conflict ushered in the era of unending Washington-inspired wars.
Others believe that the glorification of the ‘American Warrior’ is meant to divert attention from questioning the reasons for the Vietnam War, its failed objectives, and why it is still considered to have been a hugely-immoral war.
Also at issue is the absence of official concern as to why an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day, and why the suicide rate among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is 50% higher than those who never went to war.
Will Mr Sikora’s museum do anything to answer those questions? Or will it be just one more monument to American and British barbarity? If so, commemorating Irish involvement in the wars of other nations runs the risk of turning his museum into something in the style of Madame Tussaud’s grotesque Chamber of Horrors.
Irish people are not militaristic, or lovers of war and for Mr Sikora’s museum to be a success they will want an explanation of what lies behind the ‘service and sacrifice’ eulogies to GI Joe and Squaddie Bill.
For instance, the UK’s Royal Irish Regiment (RIR) probably deserves a special place in Mr Sikora’s commemorative league-tables on account of its record number of ‘Southern’ Irish. Trouble is the Ulster Defence Regiment (formerly the ‘B’ Specials) amalgamated with the Royal Irish Rangers to form the Royal Irish Regiment but the hated ‘B’ Specials-UDR never changed their spots, as any nationalist family who suffered at their vile, bigoted hands will attest.
More than 200 UDR-RIR members paid the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ between 1970 and 1992 and the obvious question swings into view: will Mr Sikora be ‘honouring’ that detested bunch of Oirish soldiers? For that matter, will he also honour the Irish that served in the Parachute Regiment?
Mr Sikora’s focus on British and American soldiers (of Irish extraction) may well irk those with family members in the Irish Defence Forces – our Army – who served on UN peace missions. Some made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ in their role as peacekeepers and did so in the knowledge they were bringing stability, security and peace to conflict zones.
Relatives might well take the point of view that extolling the virtues of Irishmen who participate in foreign armies is a sort of kick in the face to our sovereignty and to our own Defence Forces. They might even consider the Kinsale museum to be repugnant to what patriotism and love of country is all about.
Nevertheless Mr Sikora’s museum plan is gaining traction and at the first meeting of the ‘Irish Veterans’ in Kinsale, honour was paid to a young US navy man, Lt Michael Murphy (known as ‘the fiery Irishman’). He was killed in 2015 in the obscene Afghanistan war.
In attendance were the boy’s parents (the father is a Vietnam vet), Minister for Defence Simon Coveney, Admiral Joseph Maguire of the US National Counter Terrorism Centre, and a representative of the Irish Fishery Protection Service.
Hopefully, Mr Sikora and his ‘vets’ also will keep in mind the fact that commemorations can be somewhat of a dodgy business. The recent very controversial failed attempt to give ‘equality of status’ to the Auxies (British paramilitary thugs that the IRA wiped out in the Kilmichael ambush), is a case in point.
The Brits, nevertheless, are past masters at commemorations. Whereas they insanely go overboard with their poppies and Remembrance Day, a wry disconnect sometimes can be observed if a commemoration involves anyone other than those belonging to the Old Boys club – as was evidenced in a Times report on a London commemoration of Viking life and legends.
The scribe wickedly commented: ‘A longboat full of Vikings was seen sailing past the Palace of Westminster yesterday. Vikings were famously uncivilised, destructive and rapacious, with an almost insatiable appetite for rough sex but, nonetheless, the MPs looked up for a bit to admire the vessel’!
Remember those old schoolboy jokes about how to make a Maltese Cross? Stamp on his toe! Or how do you make a Maltese Cross with only one match? Set his trousers alight!
And of course the updated version about making a Maltese Cross? Give him the clapped out LÉ Aoife for nothing, if you’re Simon ‘away with the fairies’ Coveney, our hilarious Minister for Defence.