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Heroes or Traitors?Experiences of Southern Irish Soldiers Returning from the Great War 1919-1939$
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Paul Taylor

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381618

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381618.001.0001

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date: 21 October 2018



(p.1) Introduction
Heroes or Traitors?

Paul Taylor

Liverpool University Press

The soldiers returned to a much changed Ireland at war with the country in whose army they had served and with increased demands for an independent republic, rather than limited Irish Home Rule. Some historians have argued the ex-servicemen were intimidated in the ensuing conflict and marginalised in Irish society. Perceptions of the ex-servicemen became influenced by the historiography of a republican Ireland, from which they were excluded in favour of the few who took part in the Easter Rising. They were a litmus test for Ireland’s ambiguous relationship with England. Were they heroes who as part of the United Kingdom aided their country in its time of need, or traitors who, as Ireland fought off the colonial yoke, wore the uniform of its enemy? However, it is misleading to refer to them as a homogeneous group, they were not, either when volunteering or upon their return. They came from all walks of Irish society and were not exceptional in their loyalty to Britain. Their motives in volunteering, to secure home rule and to fight for small nations, reflected popular opinion. They left with the support of their communities. On their return, they often made choices that put them in conflict with each other.

Keywords:   Irish home rule, independent republic, historiography, republican Ireland, Easter Rising

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