Young Irishmen are joining the British Army in record numbers because of the deep recession in Ireland which has meant far less recruiting by the Irish Army. Many are now bound for Afghanistan as their regiments prepare to ship out.
The Irish regiments such as the Royal Irish Guards and Irish Rangers are reporting an influx of Irish since the recession has begun, the Irish Times has reported.
A lack of overseas missions by the Irish Army is another reason cited.
Major Mickey Stewart, whose mother was from Rathfarnham and father from Donaghadee, Co Down says more Irish means a greater identity for the Royal Irish regiment
“ Numbers (from Ireland) fell off and we lost some of our identity. There are more Irish again now and that matters an awful lot to people. The greatest thing is that it provides a sense of family, something tangible in terms of culture,” he said.
Ranger Michael Maguire, from Bantry, Co Cork, joined two-and-a-half months ago. “I was waiting for the Irish Army but it wasn’t recruiting. There was no end in sight; they just said it was indefinite,” he told The Times.
Ranger Seán Ryan, an 18-year-old from Co Clare, joined six months ago. “I left home at 15, did a block-laying apprenticeship in Kerry, finished up there and got a job. I moved to England at 16 and got a job from guys I knew in Robert Emmet’s hurling club in Ruislip in London.
“I didn’t want the Irish Army – not busy enough. The French Foreign Legion sent on the package of information, but I threw it out. I was originally going to join the Paras, but I was told about the Royal Irish.
“Some people don’t care that I joined; other people don’t talk about it. Some of the guys in Ruislip weren’t happy about it. Some of the family haven’t found out yet.”
Guardsman Craig Featherston’s Dublin family were not “best-pleased at first," but are supportive now: “Close friends are all fine about it. You get the odd look, but it is more that you are in any army, not just the British army.”
Ranger Michael Farrell, from Bray, Co Wicklow, told the newspaper “People at home are more intrigued than anything else. I have never had any hassle.”
Ranger Brian Curley from Co Galway, says “a lot of my friends are in the Irish Army. It didn’t appeal to me. I thought about it once. My Irish Army friends were advising me to join the Royal Irish. Here, you are dealing with fellows who have real battlefield experience.
“That is a big part of being a soldier. You are learning from the best. Feelings are mixed back at home. The picture that they have is about all about mounting losses. It isn’t about the big picture.”
Sgt Joe Coyne of the Royal Irish is from Co Kildare and he says many Irish Army soldiers are quitting.
“They want to go to places like Afghanistan. The Irish Army doesn’t offer anything like that. Sure, they have a stable job for five years, but with very slow promotion,” says Coyne. “They want extra money for going away to places for six weeks. And you can buy your way out. Guys [in the Irish Army] are getting bored and fat and lazy. And they come back from UN missions with €25,000 in the bank. There’s nobody in the British army getting anything like that, even with the improvement in the overseas allowance brought in by David Cameron."
Royal Irish Regimental Sgt Maj, Dubliner Frankie O’Connor says: “As soon as the lads are taken from the enclave, wherever that might be, they gel straight away. Their backgrounds seem to go out the window.
“I have come across really hard-line fellows, but once they are taken away from the peer-pressure, they are fine. There is an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm.
“They join looking for some sort of excitement in their lives, but they also join for leadership, for guidance. The vast majority are missing something in their lives and this is where they are able to find it. A lot come from broken families. Here, they find positive male influences."