Earlier this year, one week in spring I was on a late night train to Belfast, heading to my student accommodations for the university week ahead. I was tired and had half dozed off on the train, putting down the gothic fantasy novel I had been reading for my amusement, (I am always one for a good blood and thunder story), and my head up against the vibrating window for comfort. Some lads from the Republic where in the same train compartment and a few seats ahead of me and they were discussing life and its miscellaneous shenanigans, joking and fooling around as young men do. It wasn't until one of the girls with them had been asking them where they were heading that I brought myself back to consciousness in fascination and had overheard what they were going to do once they got to Belfast.
And it was when I had heard their designs I took proper notice of the kit bags they had with them and the nature of the accutriments adorning them.
The young men where heading north to try their fortune in the British Army regiments. With jobs scarce and many of them, judging by their earlier inconsequential chatter, had an innate fascination with the military and military life and history, often throughout their conversation exchanging knowledge on weapons and historic generals and battles. Things I myself enjoy. They had no real love of Britain, but they weren't joining the British Army because they did, as the girl had suggested, and they protested to the girl, that many other young Irish lads before them didnt join the British army for their love of it either. They wanted adventure and the chance to were uniforms, to serve, to protect and if neccessary fight. They had possessed within them a warrior calling.
When questioned as to why they didn't just join the Irish Defense Forces, I was dismayed and had assumed prematurely that they did not do so because of poor pay or perhaps 'it wasnt exciting enough' or maybe they liked the idea of being in the military and didn't feel patriotic or didn't love their country enough and decided to go to the British Army because 'that's where the action is'. I was very cynical at the time. And to my delight and surprise, i found out that each of the young men and many of their friends had already tried ''but the defence forces didn't have enough room for that many applicants'' Scoffing the girl had joked ''What? not enough room for all 7 of you?" to which one of the young men replied "not enough room for all 4,000 of us"
Then I had really perked up. The defence forces needed forty new recruits for positions in the army had an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response for the positions, but because of some quota or some other bueracratic shenanigans, they could accept no more then forty.
Over 4,000 young men, eager and ready to join the Military at such a scant excuse, and here I was, on a train with 7 such fine young men, finding themselves frustrated at not being able to fulfil their callings and being forced to look elsewhere, even to Britain, for military employment.
And that, my friends, is a scandal.
I had in my previous post bemoaned the negative effects neutrality had on us as an economic power and now I present another effect. Here we are, crippling ourselves with our cowardly fear of brandishing a stick at our sides like all our brother nations do, even the other neutral ones, preferring to whimper and cower in a small corner and hope to God none of the bigger dogs in the pack take too much notice of us.
We have a rather large pool of eager young men wanting desperately to serve their country and here we are content to waste their callings on other nations, denounce them as bloodthirsty for even wanting to be part of a stronger national army for the good of the country, and cradle our precious, useless, false idol of neutrality as if it is doing us any favours. It failed during the second world war, it is failing us now by crippling our economic growth by making us to be dependent on other nations for security and it will damn sure fail us whent he next great global conflageration rolls around.
Or do you really think 5 patrol boats for a navy and desperate pleas of recognizing some by then useless neutrality proclamation will spare us the wrath of whatever new hitlerite monster the future will throw at us?