Montreal Gazette, 3 July 1917, page 2
Lieut-Col Trihey on attitude of Irish-Canadians
Deeply concerned on situation in Ireland but will their duty as Canadians
Gives view to NY Paper
Former commanding officer of Irish Rangers confesses his chagrin over disbanding of the battalion
(Special to the Gazette)
New York – July 2 – Lt-Col Henry J Trihey of Montreal, who commanded the now disbanded regiment of Irish Canadian Rangers, makes the following statement over his signature to the New York Post:
“Irish-Canadians always deeply interested in the welfare of Ireland, have never yet allowed that interest to interfere with their duty to Canada. They are Canadians.
“On the outbreak of war and at the first call for volunteers, Irish-Canadians came forward and continued voluntarily to respond as Canada made further calls, until scores of thousands of Irish-Canadians had gone overseas, diffused among the various Canadian units.
“During the first eighteen months of war no Canadian unit particularly represented the Irish-Canadian population, although the Scotch, English and French populations had each from the beginning its special regiment.
“At the end of 1915 the Canadian Government having given evidence of its desire to feature battalions representing different shades of national sentiment in Canada, with a view to encouraging voluntary enlistment, was asked by me for authority to raise an Irish-Canadian regiment for overseas service. This authority having been granted, patriotic Irish-Canadian citizens provided a fund of $40 000 to defray the cost of recruiting and of organizing.
“In February 1916, the organizing of the Irish-Canadian Rangers was begun. The first poster issued bore the legend ‘Small Nations must be free’. The particular appeal was to those who desired to share in the honor of representing in this unit, Irish-Canadian loyalty to Canada, at the front, fighting for the principle proclaimed on the poster.
“Two members of Sir Robert Borden’s cabinet – one of them Minister of Militia – from platforms, in the city of Montreal, stated that the government of Canada pledged itself that the Irish-Canadian Rangers would go to France as a unit representing Irish-Canadians. This statement was made at recruiting meetings as a special inducement to Irish-Canadians to enlist in this regiment. Relying on this pledge and animated by loyalty to Canada, Irish-Canadians volunteered despite the aftermath of the Irish rebellion of Easter, 1916. The Irish-Canadian Rangers fully organized arrived in England on December 26, 1916. On January 3, 1917, I learned that the disbandment of the regiment had been officially decreed in England, but that it was the intention of the English government first to send the Irish-Canadian Rangers to parade through Ireland. On confirming this I tendered my resignation as officer commanding and returned to Canada. All efforts from Canada were unavailing: the parade through Ireland occurred and the regiment was disbanded May 23, 1917.
“The disbanded men were scattered among English-Canadian regiments.
“Not one of the Irish-Canadian officers, not even our Catholic chaplain was sent with the men. The officers were not used: they were simply ignored.
Reasons for Discontent
“Today the Irish-Canadian knows of the Irish-Canadian regiment, that Irish-Canadian loyalty organised to symbolize itself in Canada’s effort for the freedom of small nations. He realizes what he formerly heard, but did not appreciate that Ireland is under martial law, and is occupied by an English army. He reads in the press that English soldiers in Dublin and Cork with rifle and with machine gun fight those of his kinsmen who believe Ireland to be a small nation worthy of freedom. He wonders if the conscripting of 100 000 more Canadians would be necessary if the 150 000 men comprising the English army in Ireland were sent to fight in France. He also wonders where Canadians now may best maintain the war purpose vital to Canada small – small nations must be free.
“If conscription becomes law of course Irish-Canadians will loyally observe the law, for they are Canadians.