‘A definitive neurasthenic temperament’? The Irish Tommy and veteran
in Shell-shocked British Army veterans in Ireland, 1918–39
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This chapter demonstrates Irishmen fighting in the same uniform as their British comrades also experienced similar psychoneurotic afflictions. However, it was how such instances amongst Irish troops were perceived which was unique. This chapter establishes that the British military establishment believed the Irish Tommy was especially susceptible to war neuroses. This discernment was a continuation of long-held anti-Irish perceptions amongst Britons that the Irish were immature, emotionally volatile and susceptible to mental illness. This assessment had helped to legitimise British imperialism in Ireland. Simultaneous to the continuation of such anti-Irish prejudices, however, this chapter also offers a considerate analysis of the Ministry of Pensions’ early rehabilitative attempts in Britain and Ireland between 1914 and 1921. Exclusive in-patient and out-patient treatment was provided in Ministry hospitals throughout the United Kingdom. This infrastructure was far more progressive and innovative than has been previously assumed. Infrastructure in ‘South Ireland’, however, was fatally compromised. The region experienced far higher waiting lists for neurasthenic pensioners awaiting in-patient and out-patient treatment in the United Kingdom. Ministry of Pensions officials in London attributed these inflated figures to the supposition that the Irish were predisposed to mental illness.

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