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Return of the Wild Geese

Political commentator Dr John Coulter reports on the return of the famous Wild Geese to Ireland - more than 300 years after they first left Ireland in 1691!
The Wild Geese have returned to Ireland after more than three centuries!

Dr John Coulter • 28 April 2007

That’s the controversial message coming from a unique all-island military veterans association which has adopted the name given to Catholic troops who fled Ireland in the early 1690s in the aftermath of King Billy’s victory at the Boyne.

The Wild Geese Association was only set up three months ago, but already has signed up almost 50 old comrades and war veterans from both sides of the Irish border.

Earlier this month, a standard for the WGA was officially dedicated at the Michael Collins barracks in Dublin. Ironically, the barracks is named after the legendary IRA hero of the War of Independence and Irish Civil War.

Northern-based veteran John Jamieson is the WGA’s secretary and he emphasised the new association was the first of its kind on the island because it comprised ex-service people from both the British forces and Irish Defence forces.

He said: “The Wild Geese Association is an all-Ireland organisation of ex-military personnel. The idea for the association originated from an old soldiers’ day in Limerick last October hosted by the Association of United Nations Lebanon Veterans.

“We are non-sectarian, non-political and non-aligned. Among the main criteria for joining is that you have to be a member of an ex-military organisation which has been recognised in both parts of Ireland. You also have to be born in Ireland, or be living in Ireland.”

Mr Jamieson has strong links with other old comrades associations, including being chairman of the Lisburn Royal Irish Rangers branch; president of the Royal Irish Fusiliers branch, and chairman of Lisburn Royal British Legion club.

He said the Lebanon Veterans group had formally joined the Wild Geese, as had representatives from the Connaught Rangers and Dublin Fusiliers old comrades associations.

Of the current growing Wild Geese membership, about half were from the Republic, with the remainder from the North, including Lisburn, Belfast, Ballyclare, Newtownards, Antrim, Banbridge and one from London.

The Wild Geese has also created another piece of military history in Ireland by presenting a uniform to the national museum at Collins Barracks – the first British veterans to officially stand in the barracks since 1922.

And another member of the Wild Geese Association, Michael Leavy from Belfast, said even more history had been created when a plaque was unveiled recently in Collins Barracks museum dedicated to the memory of the 168 Irish-born recipients of Britain’s highest award for military courage – the Victoria Cross.

“A window has been removed in the barracks and a full-size plague has been installed containing all 168 names in order of Irish county. We hope this type of commemoration could spread to other towns and cities across the island with plaques being erected in city halls, town halls or libraries to the Irish-born VC heroes,” said Mr Leavy.

Mr Jamieson added the Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen in the Republic had also become associate members of the Wild Geese. “We are simply old soldiers looking after old soldiers,” he said.

The term Wild Geese has been controversial in Irish history. It originally referred to the Irish Catholic soldiers who fled Ireland to France under the command of their famous general, Patrick Sarsfield, in 1691.

These Jacobite troops decided to quit the island after the Treaty of Limerick in October that year reinforced the Protestant King William’s victory in Ireland.

These Catholic soldiers decided to fight for continental European armies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries rather than live in Ireland under the Protestant Ascendancy.

After the relaxing of the vehemently anti-Catholic Penal Laws in the late 18th century as well as the scrapping of laws in the 1790s banning Catholics from carrying weapons, the British began recruiting Irish regiments for its army.

Among the first of these Irish regiments was the famous Connaught Rangers. During the bloody Penninsular War in European from 1808 to 1814, up to one third of the Duke of Wellington’s army comprised Irish units.

By 1914 and the outbreak of World War One, there were nine specifically Irish infantry regiments dispatched to the trenches.

These were: Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment; Royal Dublin Fusiliers; Irish Guards; Royal Irish Regiment; Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers; Royal Irish Rifles; Royal Irish Fusiliers; Connaught Rangers, and Royal Munster Fusiliers.

However, in 1922 with the creation of the Free State, five of these regiments were disbanded. Britain still today retains two – the Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment.

A Wild Geese heritage museum and library exists in Portumna, Co Galway. The term was also immortalised in the cinema in 1978 when The Wild Geese was released.

It starred screen legends, such as Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Roger Moore of James Bond fame, in an action adventure about a group of British mercenaries who capture a central African leader.













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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

6 May 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Colluding in Silence
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Censorship Complementing Cover Up
Anthony McIntyre

John Kennedy

Antaine Uas O'Labhradha

Protestantism and the Republic
Roy Johnston

UVF Statement: Unionists Welcome in Nine-County Ulster Parliament
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

Hidden Hand
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Selection at Eleven
Michael Gillespie

Stormont Christian Coalition?
Dr John Coulter

Ken Bruen's 'The Priest': Galway's Heart of Moral Darkness
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Scottish Left Must Reunite in New Socialist Party!
Mick Hall

Return of the Wild Geese
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Calling All de Gaulles!
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Blair's Irish Decade
Dr John Coulter

24 April 2007

Tús Nua - Céim chun tosaigh
A new beginning - a step forward

W. Harbinson

Which Way We Are Facing
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Whither Traditional Republicanism?
Michael Gillespie

The Drumcree Conspiracy
John Kennedy

We Must Deal Openly With The Past
David Adams

What Was It All For?
Antaine Uas O'Labhradha

The New Wolfe Tone?
Dr John Coulter

Felon Setting
Martin Galvin

UVF Threats Further Proof of Political Policing
Press Release: 32 County Sovereignty Movement

Widgery II
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Easter Statement
Republican Socialist Youth Movement

Commemoration Report
Cathleen O'Brien

The Road Ahead for the UUP
Dr John Coulter

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander!
Patrick Hurley

David Ervine
Anthony McIntyre



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