I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Cruel Ways of War

The Cruel Ways of War

Niamh Reilly
This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the posthumous publication of Tom Kettle’s collection of essays The Ways of War (1917). In the first decade of the twentieth century, Kettle (1880-1916) was viewed by many as a rising star of progressive, nationalist Ireland – a young Irish Party MP (1906-1910), a gifted orator, journalist, essayist, professor, and a vocal advocate on a range of social issues, including the rights of women and labour. As is well known, events surrounding the 1916 Rising radically altered the trajectory of Irish history. The story of how Tom Kettle became a target of vilification by “advanced nationalists” and spent the final weeks of his life in 1916 in France fighting in the Allied war effort, is laden with poignancy and paradoxes. Today, public discourse is evolving regarding Irish participation in the Great War and how it is interpreted vis-à-vis Irish identity. Works by Frank Callanan, Margaret O’Callaghan and Senia Pašeta among others have fostered greater understanding of Kettle’s legacy. Michael D Higgins’s speech at Westminster in 2014 exemplifies the evolving rehabilitation of Kettle within a revised narrative of Ireland’s founding story. Quoting from The Ways of War, Higgins praised Kettle as a “nationalist MP”, “Irish patriot”, “British soldier” and “true European”. Although Kettle never identified as a “British solider” – as his wife stated, “it was as an Irish soldier in the army of Europe … that he entered the war” – the current, more nuanced interest in him suggests a turning point in the recovery of Tom Kettle’s place in Irish history. One of Kettle’s last acts in France was to amend his will to request that Mary Sheehy Kettle, his “dear wife and comrade”, should have sole “control of the publication or re-publication of any literary work” published after his death, “as a compliment to her intellect as well as her love”. In the same letter he outlines his wishes for the publication of a new collection of his writings to be entitled Ways of War. He hastily scribbled that the volume should contain “the essay on Nietzsche, the article on the Germans published in the Daily News in the first few days of the war; and my MSS article protesting against the transformation of a war for honour into a war for trade”. The Ways of War contains twenty-one essays by Kettle, reflecting his hallmark fusion of political-historical analysis, scholarly but accessible discussions of political, social and economic…

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