Ireland this week experienced one of the worst military tragedies in its history. Now before you go all weepy on me, you must understand that Irish military tragedies are not in the league of those suffered by Paulus’ Sixth Army at Stalingrad, or the British cavalry at Balaclava. Still, all this week the streets of Mullingar were thronged by the brave soldiers’ distraught women-folk. There were heart-rending scenes of traumatised children as the horrific realisation dawned that whole families were irretrievably damaged. The drama was captured 24X7 on our TV sets as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse saddled up to stalk the ruined land. Eventually I could take no more, and retired, a broken man, to recuperate in my boudoir.
You want to hear about the tragedy? Are you made of stern stuff? If not, leave right now. Ok, if you’re still with me, here’s the story. They’re closing the army barracks in Mullingar and the soldiers will have to drive 14 miles up the road to the barracks in Longford. Where they were all massacred to a man, in hideous circumstances? No. They’ll just have to drive 14 miles to work instead of toddling up the road as heretofore. That’s what brought the whole mid-west region to a standstill, and the resignation of a Government Minister.
Those of you in the real world must understand that the Irish army possesses some other unique characteristics. One of which is to never, ever, ever be exposed to danger. We go on international ‘peace-keeping’ missions only under the strict proviso that ‘our troops must in no circumstances be put at risk’. Consequently, if and when the shooting starts our heroes are whisked to safety before you can say ‘remind me again why I joined the army’.
Nice work if you can get it. And it pays well. Very well. The rudest most basic private gets by on €36,000 a year, plus a whole host of supplements if he’s on ‘active service’ abroad (see above). Net effect he earns more than twice that of his equivalent British squaddy getting perforated and blown up in Afghanistan (nearly 400 killed to date). Not bad for a bankrupt country, and I’m sure the Germans currently picking up the tab will continue to be very understanding.
And if you don’t like noise, well you’re really in the money. You know, noise that emanates from guns and things like that. Over €600 million has been paid out to wounded veterans who had to endure such loud banging in earlier days. Then there's Victor Murtagh who heard a couple of really loud bangs while he was in Lebanon. I wrote here that with a name like Victor it's probably not surprising that he apparently 'always wanted to be a soldier', presumably attracted by the cut and thrust of battle and the adrenalin rush of taking it to the enemy.
So here's the story. He joins the Irish Army and gets trained in the skills of combat. Gets posted to Lebanon in due course. But then things start to go wrong. Horribly wrong. He heard a 'loud explosion' down the road which frightened the shit out of him. But then he heard that two other soldiers were killed (imagine that, soldiers killed!). The Horror! The Horror! He became very upset. Very upset indeed.So decided to sue the army. And he gets awarded €300k.
You think I’m kidding? Check this.
One downside of these noise-related developments is the impairment of our legendary Army motto, emblazoned on every soldier’s cap: Nos Pueri Non Timent Strepitus ('We’re the boys who fear no noise’).
But on the upside for the transferees, maybe the barracks in Longford is close to a downmarket auto repair shop. Lots of loud bangs there guys. Fortune beckons!