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Posts Tagged ‘Michael J. Whelan’

Michael J. Whelan speaking at launch of Landscapes of War and Peace at Tallaght Library - Red Line Book Festival 2014

Michael J. Whelan speaking at launch of ‘Landscapes of War and Peace’ at Tallaght Library – Red Line Book Festival 2014 Photo: Mikey Whelan

 

It was really great to finally see my poetry exhibition LANDSCAPES OF WAR & PEACE 1914-2014: WAR POETRY & PEACEKEEPING by Michael J. Whelan launched on Monday evening 6th October 2014 by Brigadier General Paul Fry – General Officer Commanding the Irish Air Corps after an introduction by the Mayor of South Dublin Cllr Fintan Warfield, at the County Library Tallaght, County Dublin. The exhibition is being run by South Dublin Libraries as part of the Red Line Book Festival 2014. The exhibition features some of my poems about WWI and many inspired by my tours of duty as an Irish United Nations Peacekeeper in South Lebanon and Kosovo in the 1990s; it also features some artwork, and family history from both World Wars and conflicts over the 20th Century.

The large posters, which depict my poems and images were designed by David Power of South Dublin Libraries/ Red Line Book Festival and were produced by same. Those in attendance at the Launch included my friends and family, local writers and friends from the Virginia House and Platform One writer’s groups, Irish military and United Nations Veterans, serving members of the Irish Defence Forces, the Heritage Officer of South Dublin, the County Manager, and Mr Dominic Chilcott -British Ambassador to Ireland.

I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came along and to the library staff and to Brigadier General Paul Fry, Mayor Fintan Warfield and the Red Line Book Festival.

The exhibition runs until October 23rd.

See more images here https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.784028461639154.1073741865.172886376086702&type=1

All photos taken by my son Mikey Whelan (age 17)

 

Brigadier General Paul Fry - General Officer Commanding Irish Air Corps, Michael J. Whelan, Mayor of South Dublin - Fintan Warfield and British Amassador to Ireland  - Dominc Chilcott at the launch of Landscapes of War & Peace 1914-2014: War Poetry & Peacekeeping by Michael J. Whelan

Brigadier General Paul Fry – General Officer Commanding Irish Air Corps, Michael J. Whelan, Mayor of South Dublin – Fintan Warfield and British Ambassador to Ireland – Dominc Chilcott at the launch of ‘Landscapes of War & Peace 1914-2014: War Poetry & Peacekeeping’ by Michael J. Whelan

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Kosovo: Michael J. Whelan

Kosovo: Michael J. Whelan

During my time in Kosovo as a peacekeeper with the Irish military contingent deployed there I visited many villages as we resupplied them with food, building material etc. or just showed the locals that we were nearby. Some villages were empty desolate places where the worst things had happened.

ECHOES

There is nothing left in this village
but the burnt out shells of homes,
roofless rooms and echoes
drifting across scorched black grass,
following boot prints through alleyways
and well trodden streets,
over rank smelling chicken coops,
dead pigs and silent tractors
stuck in time and sodden earth,
past the ancient cemetery and schoolhouse
to a raised ditch on the side of an infamous hill,
where the only living things without guilt
are the swarming swollen flies
feasting on the end story of a thousand years.

The echoes are not of children’s laughter!

Michael J. Whelan

Published in The Galway Review 2013

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To date, eighty nine Irish soldiers have died on Peacekeeping service around the world since Ireland began sending troops abroad on United Nations service in 1960 and hundreds have been injured. Ireland’s United Nations membership and troop commitments abroad have been a major contributing element to the country’s foreign policy.

The photo contains four Irish Peacekeepers, myself and three friends, and was taken in South Lebanon, while on UN service there in 1994. I am on the extreme right of the picture and the chap next to me, Trooper Jonathan Campbell, a really great guy, was killed while on service there during a tour of duty a few years later. The poem below is about the Irish peacekeepers!

Medal Parade UNIFIL 1994: Michael J. Whelan(r)

Medal Parade UNIFIL 1994: Michael J. Whelan(r)

FOR PEACE THIS PIECE OF YOU IS ENDED

(for all Irish peacekeepers)

For this moment

like other souls

the world and I are splendid,

for peace – this piece of you is ended.

So tell them of me

whose love for you was endless,

you who are going home without me

tell Ireland how death took me,

that I kept the faith

her honoured state

and though my loved ones cried –

remembered, then, these sacrifices

when my country takes its place again

and yours and mine,

of Irish blood on foreign soil

saved the world again

if only for that moment then.

by Michael J. Whelan

 

from ‘On Hurting Ground..’ (Dublin, 2009)

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During my tour of duty as a peacekeeper in Kosovo between 2000 and 20001 I came across many distressed people and families from all

Damaged house Kosovo, 2001. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Damaged house (unknown location) Kosovo, 2001. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

backgrounds resulting from the various effects of the war. Some I heard of from the experiences of guys in my unit etc and some I witnessed personally. Others I didn’t want to explore for fear of not being able to comprehend the depths of despair, ( I was pretty depressed during the whole time I was there anyway) as somehow through hearing and not witnessing first hand a tragedy is much greater and worse in the imagination, weird – I know! We did our best though, both as individuals and collectively with little means, to help everyone we could.

Close to one of the many routes used regularly by the K.FOR and as a result Irish soldiers there was a particular village. I cannot recall its name or where exactly it was located off-route nor can I recall if the old woman was Serbian, Albanian, Roma or whatever  but I do remember seeing her, hearing the tragedy of her and knowing about the ethnic cleansing that had and was occurring. This later inspired the short poem below.

DERANGED

(Kosovo)

Cold day

Rain

Old woman

Damaged

Smelled

Ancient urine

Matted hair

Dirty clothes

Filthy skin

Living

In ruin

Burnt out shell

Hungry

Dying

Weeping

Gone mad

Charred remains

Her family

Inside home

Inside her

Murdered

Fearful

Of strangers

Would not be helped

Could not

Deranged

Michael J. Whelan

 

from ‘On Hurting Ground’ (Dublin,. 2009)

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Early Bird minesweep Lebanon: Michael J. Whelan

Early Bird minesweep Lebanon: Michael J. Whelan

BOMBING   

              (South Lebanon 1994)
My first real lesson in a warzone was
… about the loss of pride, not innocence.
That came later – I think.
It happened on the second day
of my tour of duty in South Lebanon.
The Israelis were shelling the Irish Batt area,
welcoming the new crowd,
the Red Arses with a bang!
I bombed through the camp
vaulting towards the Comcen to
grab my rifle, flak-jacket and helmet.
I figured I would need them
in case the ‘shit hit the fan’
and besides, if I was going to die
I wanted to look like a proper casualty.
It was still daylight and some
‘Old Sweats’ spied
my heroic strides. The torture was
fierce but I lived through the slagging
and learned to never look scared in a warzone,
especially with Vets around.
Michael J. Whelan
Published in Tallaght Express Newspaper issue 31 on 14 March 2013
Comcen = Communications Centre

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Tree Branches (Dominion)Photo by Michael J. Whelan

Tree Branches (Dominion)
Photo by Michael J. Whelan

Over the last few years Ireland has been going through a very difficult transformation. The old trusted pillars of society are trusted no more. People seem lost, troubled about their futures and that of their families and their homes. Ireland was once a dream and her citizens were part of it, they were that dream and many laid down their lives for their ideals of Ireland. Today people are struggling to survive, to believe in that dream again but the weight of the state is heavy on their shoulders. They understand what sovereignty and independence stands for, what they mean, what they should inspire, what they inspired in the past.

The sacrifices should mirror a dream, something to believe in at the end of the long dark tunnel. The burden has to be worth it, people have to feel valued and they have to be able to see the light at the end of that tunnel. The dogma and rhetoric hanging over the heads of the citizens of this country does not inspire believe in the better times ahead, the threats of reprisal before the words of leadership only lead to a sense of lost liberty. Every man and woman has dreams; dreams are what people need so they can believe. I myself have dreams for the future involving everyone and everything I have spoken of here and yes I am not afraid to admit that I am scared but I am trying hard to believe that things will improve before my children come of age. I’m sure everyone in Ireland feels the same.

This is the place where my poem DOMINION: Ireland 2013 comes from.

DOMINION

Ireland – 2013

 

(My country is hurting.

My mind is a tinderbox.

The world is confusing)

 

On this dark early morning

my children are sleeping – still, safe,

but I pray for them.

Under the painted sky

humanity begins the day

and I watch the moon-disc’s dominion

from my usual place

near a little winter tree.

I have crossed the river of headlights.

The rising frost quickens

on the hard white grass

stirring early birds to flight.

I see my breath before me,

tell myself this is proof

that I am still alive.

In my heart a war is raging,

the sky is a veil

and the moon – a glimpse of something different,

the only thing letting in light

on the outcasts of a dream.

 

 Michael J. Whelan

 

Published by InTallaght Magazine Issue 30, February 2013

http://www.intallaght.ie/?p=3727

 

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