Rare footage shows the Irish Army in 1956 marching through Youghal, County Cork in what was the army’s first “peacetime exercise” maneuver.
Over a span of ten days, 1,000 Irish soldiers marched through Ireland, starting with an open-air Mass and military ceremonial in County Waterford at their campsite, and ending in Youghal with a proud salute by then-Taoiseach John A. Costello.
A 1956 clipping from the Cork Examiner reports, “[Costello] felt a thrill of pride at the concrete evidence of what had been achieved by the sacrifices of the people over the centuries. He could see during the parade that every soldier who marched as well as the magnificent guard of honor which he had the privilege to inspect, had taken pride in their appearance and their equipment, and represented a tremendously respectable and orderly body of Irishmen.”
He later added that the Irish Army “could compare favorably with any army in the world.”
The Taoiseach said the soldiers of the Irish Army aren’t slaves to the Irish government, but servants to the Irish people: “You are there for defense and not conquest. You are the Army of the Irish Republic, the disciplined servants of the Irish people. You are there at behest of the majority of the Irish people and nobody else.”
The video compilation was taken over a few days: depicted are the soldiers and an army brass band, as well as locals and tourists who briefly marched or bicycled alongside the soldiers. Some of them, according to the Irish Examiner, marched with the men all the way from Waterford, 20 miles away. A family who’d been waiting for the army in Youghal is introduced in the video as well.
The soldiers filed past the Taoiseach, defense minister Sean MacEoin, external affairs minister Liam Cosgrave, chief of staff P.A. Mulcahy, assistant chief of staff James Flynn, and several other major generals. At around 4:30 in the video, you can see the government taking their salutes.
Youghal town councilor Liam Burke discovered the unique material. His father, James Burke, who served in the Local Defense Force in World War II (‘‘the Emergency’), initially recorded it in 1956.
*Originally published in 2016. Updated in 2023.