Jim Roche, IAWM PRO says:

"The Battle of the Somme’s 100th anniversary is upon us and already the media are glossing over the horrific imperial carnage that it was. We hear of glorious acts of heroism and Irishmen, north and south, dying side by side along with Englishmen and others from throughout the colonies in a supposed fight for freedom. This is the exact distortion of events that the IAWM warned against when we launched our pamphlet What did they die for? in August 2014."

John Molyneux says:

“What all this involved was the repeated willingness to send thousands upon thousands, ultimately millions, of young, mainly working class, men to their more or less certain deaths for the sake of the Empire ………… The Battle of the Somme was only one episode in the vast catastrophe of the War as a whole but it serves, as we mark its centenary, to exemplify the essential character of that terrible crime against humanity.”

We reprint here the IAWM statement issued in August 2014.


The IAWM statement has been signed by over 70 people including Christy Moore, Sinead Cusack, Robert Ballagh, Felim Egan, Raymond Deane, Trevor Hogan, Prof. Kathleen Lynch, Richard Boyd Barrett TD, Clare Daly TD and various other people from cultural, academic and political life.

August 2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. Far from being a "war to end all wars" or a "victory for democracy", the war was a military disaster and a catastrophe for humankind which left 16 million dead and 20 million wounded, many horribly so. Britain alone suffered almost 900,000 military deaths and a further 124,000 civilian deaths. Life in the trenches was a living hell. Desertions were punished by firing squad. Those who survived were deeply scarred with many suffering debilitating long-term effects.

The war became a testing ground for new mechanised techniques of mass killing with the development of tanks, gas warfare and aerial bombing that encouraged huge profiteering through the armaments industry. In the US alone, for example, war profits saw the creation of 21,000 new millionaires.

The dominant, simplistic justification for World War 1 is that it was a tragically necessary expedient to halt German domination of Europe. We believe it is important to remember that this war was driven by the major imperial powers' competition for influence around the globe. It was an unnecessary slaughter conducted for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. Many of the lies told to justify the war on all sides at the time resonate today as young men are cajoled into fighting wars for spurious reasons.

We believe it is vitally important that the sacrifice of the 49,000 soldiers from the island of Ireland who died in World War 1 should be commemorated. We also believe that the supposed good cause for which they died should be exposed for the imperial slaughter that it was. We are not in any way disrespecting the memory of dead Irish soldiers by criticizing the architects of this carnage but we dispute the revisionist narrative idealising the ‘good cause’ that these soldiers died for, a narrative often used to supposedly bridge the nationalist and unionist traditions.

We call on the Irish government not to use the occasion of the commemorations to justify the slaughter of World War 1, or to justify the ongoing militarisation of Europe or the current state of perpetual warfare being promoted by the major world powers. In a time of serious international tension and seemingly perpetual war we call on everyone, but especially Governments, to ensure that this anniversary is used to expose the real reasons behind World War 1, to analyse the senseless succession of wars in the intervening hundred years, and to promote peace and international co-operation in an effort to end all war forever.


Jim Roche, PRO, Steering Committee IAWM, Tel. 087 647 2737

John Molyneux, Secretary, Steering Committee IAWM, Tel. 085 735 6424

For more information on the IAWM see:

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