War hideous war. A poem by Patrick Galvin: It was Ireland but thankfully people realised it had to stop. There was Detente, world leaders supported the Good Friday Agreement 1998 and we have had Peace in Northern Ireland. Ukraine, your people at war must feel no different to the words in this poem written about the North of Ireland and the occupation by British troops.

Posted by

John Glynn

The British Army was deployed on the streets of the Six Counties 50 years ago this week. This poem was written by Patrick Galvin, poet and author of ‘Song for a Raggy Boy’, later adapted as a film. A Corkman, Galvin lived in Belfast for some years. (Photo from ‘Patriot Graves’ by P. Michael O’Sullivan).

Letter to a British soldier on Irish soil

By Patrick Galvin (1972)


You did not ask to come here

We know that.

You obey orders

We know that.

You have a wife

A sweetheart

A mother

We know that.

And you have children

We know that too.

But soldier

Where you stand

There is death.

Where you walk

There is a burning wound,

Where you sleep

There is no peace

And the earth heaves

Through a nightmare of blood.


When you die

The dogs will bury you.

When you came to this land

You said you came to understand.

Soldier, we are tired of your understanding,

Tired of British troops on Irish soil

Tired of your knock on the door

Tired of the rifle butt on the head

Tired of the jails, the gas, the beatings

In dark corners.


We are tired of the peace you bring

To Irish bones.

Tired of the bombs, exploding in our homes

Tired of the rubble, growing in the streets

Tired of the deaths of old friends

Tired of the tears and funerals –

Those endless, endless funerals.


When you came to this land

You said you came to understand

Is this your understanding?

We dream here,

We dream that this land

Is our land.

That one day

Catholic and Protestant

Believer and Non-believer

Will stand here

And dream

As Irish men and women.

We dream

Of a green land

Without death

A new silence descending

A silence of peace.

And this dream

We dream, soldier, without you.

That is our understanding.

Go home, soldier.

Your presence here

Destroys the air

Your smile disfigures us.

Go home, soldier,

Before we send you home


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