Alex Massie

Irish Army Told They May Only Play Tiddlywinks

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I'm not* one to mock the Irish armed forces and there's no gainsaying the fact that Irish troops have done their bit in various peacekeeping operations around the world. But (you guessed there'd be a "but", right?) it's


impossible not to be amused by the fact that Irish troops preparing for deployment to Chad have been told they cannot play


soccer on the dusty playing fields of Chad:

Defence Minister Willie O’Dea said the decision was made for health and safety reasons. "The reality in Chad is that the ground is extremely hard. Some of the sports are played out on open ground and when people fall, it tends to have a much greater impact on their bodies than falling in a field in Ireland, where the ground is not nearly as hard," he told the Dáil.

Labour’s Brian O’Shea said the troops had lost a good way to let off steam.

But he was told an assessment found the risk of a soldier being sent home with a sports injury was too great.

The minister said he could not dictate which sports were allowed while safely ensconced in Dublin.

Fine Gael’s spokesman, Jimmy Deenihan, had reservations on the choice of games. "Volleyball is not a physical contact sport."

Mr O’Dea said while soccer, volleyball and other physical sports on the solid Chad sod were dangerous, there was wriggle room once contact was avoided. You see, volleyball is a garrison sport too. Or something. Frankly, many of the world's problems might be sorted out if the lads were to hand the warring tribes some hurley sticks and tell 'em to get on with it. If hurling can temper barbarism in Offaly and Kilkenny it must have a chance of doing so in Chad or, for that matter, the Hindu Kush...

*OK, not really.

[Hat-tip: Foreign Policy]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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