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Thursday, 21 November 1912

Senator ST LEDGER - I welcome an interjection from Senator Lynch, who has the blood of the same race as my own in his veins, and in reply I ask him to consider why the Irish regiments in the British Army to-day wear the harp and the shamrock on their uniforms. Until comparatively recent times they had no right to wear their national emblem; but because of their gallant deeds, and the leadership -of a brilliant Irishman at the time of the Empire's greatest peril, Her late Gracious Majesty recognised the service of the Irish leaders and regiments by abolishing the -regulation which forbade them to wear their national emblem.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - And nothing pleased them better.

Senator ST LEDGER - Nothing ^pleased the soldiers better, or was more -calculated to stimulate the Irish national Spirit than that act of Her late Majesty.

Senator Lynch - She simply did at the time what she knew would suit her Ministers.

Senator ST LEDGER - I merely mention the fact, and I would not attempt, for a moment, to analyze her motives. I point out that the kilt is no more to the Scotsman than the three-leaved shamrock on a military uniform is to the Irishman. It is not the form that is to be considered, but the spirit behind the form.

Senator Lynch - Why was not this distinctive dress introduced ' into the Navy?

Senator ST LEDGER - Let us confine, ourselves to the subject with which we are dealing, and that is the Army. It is an historical fact, impossible to refute, that the cultivation of separate national characteristics has been a powerful incentive in promoting the courage, discipline, and loyalty of the British Army. There is no period in the history of Great Britain, or even of America, in which the national spirit encouraged by the establishment of national regiments has not been of immense benefit to the British and American armies. In the Civil War in America, Irish regiments fought against each other, just as did American regiments. I do not know whether any distinctively Scottish regiments were engaged in that war, but I do know that the Irish regiments fighting on the side of the Union were not less loyal to the Union because the Minister of War at the time availed himself of the fighting spirit of that martial race. It is of no use for the Minister of Defence to try to hide from himself the fact that the Irish and Scotch people in Australia retain the racial instincts which they display in their own land and in America. There is a desire to have something distinctly national in the way of uniform, and how can it weaken the fighting power of the Australian Army to stimulate the lighting instincts and loyalty of our soldiers?

Senator Rae - What about the Covenanters of Ulster? They may want a separate regiment.

Senator ST LEDGER - In the face of war, whatever differences may exist amongst Irishmen at other times are sunk, and the Ulstermen and Munstermen fight together in the same regiment, and do their duty. I hope that the Minister of Defence will give favorable consideration to the motion, and recognise that amongst Scotsmen, as amongst Irishmen, there is a special pride in taking up military duties, when, at the same time, they can gratify a desire to identify themselves with the national characteristics of the country from which they come.

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