Face­book post by Catholic man from NI on why he chose to join the British Army gets mas­sive re­ac­tion

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY STEW­ART ROBSON

A CATHOLIC man from north Belfast has re­ceived a mas­sive on­line re­sponse af­ter go­ing pub­lic on his de­ci­sion to join the British Army 18 years ago.

Conor Ger­ard McKenna (34), who has served in the Royal Ir­ish Reg­i­ment since 2000 and now lives in Scot­land, ex­plained his rea­sons in a Face­book post that has at­tracted thou­sands of com­ments and shares.

The avid Celtic fan, who served in the sec­ond Gulf War as well as here, was too young to join the Ir­ish De­fence Forces and de­cided to en­list in the Royal Ir­ish. But he lost friends as a re­sult, and some fam­ily re­la­tion­ships be­came strained.

Some of his rel­a­tives were con­cerned at the im­pli­ca­tions.

But he said that his Protes­tant-born mother, who is from Glas­gow, was more ac­cept­ing of his choice. Speak­ing to the Belfast Tele­graph, the sol­dier re­called that grow­ing up close to the Antrim Road was an “in­ter­est­ing” ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We were only one of a few Catholic fam­i­lies that lived on our street,” he said. “I re­mem­ber the UFF shot through the win­dow of one of our neigh­bour’s houses.

“We used to get tor­tured and I’d a few fisticuffs with boys down our street. It’s funny, though, that some of the boys I may have been fight­ing with from the Shore Road, Fairhill and Mount Ver­non signed up at the same time as me.”

He re­called the var­i­ous neg­a­tive re­ac­tions he had to con­tend with, and was la­belled a “turn­coat” when he met peo­ple from the area where he grew up. Asked about feel­ings of Bri­tish­ness

Conor McKenna en­listed with the Royal Ir­ish Reg­i­ment in 2000

or Ir­ish­ness, he said: “We are who we are. It’s just un­for­tu­nate about the way we’ve been brought up

“I don’t even think I’d say I’m Catholic any more. I don’t prac­tise any re­li­gion or have any be­liefs or ide­olo­gies. I’m just me. The Army is the same to me as the day I joined. The boys I’ve served with are fam­ily now,

they’re broth­ers. There’s a com­mu­nity feel that’s never go­ing away.”

The huge re­ac­tion to his post on Face­book has taken him by sur­prise. More than 12,000 peo­ple have ‘liked’ it with over 2,000 com­ments and 4,000 shares.

“I wasn’t ex­pect­ing it to go vi­ral,” he added. “I can’t get my head around it at all.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.