Taoiseach visits the Singapore prison where his uncle was held by the Japanese Army during World War II

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has visited the Singapore prison where his uncle was held for three years by the Japanese army during World War II.

r Martin spoke emotionally about his father’s brother, Philip “Philly” Martin, after he was given a tour of a museum on the site of the former Changi detention center during his state visit to the city-state.

The Taoiseach related how his uncle was forced to eat raw chicken and insects to stay alive as a prisoner of war (POW) after being captured by the Japanese while defending Singapore as a member of the Royal Engineers.

The tour of Changi Prison describes how some prisoners even ate part of their own blankets, such was the hunger among the prisoners.

Although Philip Martin was 6 feet tall, he weighed only 8 stone when released from captivity.

“They had to go to extreme lengths to get food. They smuggled back raw chickens and ate lots of insects to keep themselves alive. It was a constant struggle for survival,” said the Taoiseach.

Philip was later reunited with his family but eventually moved to England and later served in the British Army in the Middle East.

Mr Martin said it was “quite an emotional experience” to see his uncle’s name in the exhibition detailing the lives of POWs at Changi Prison Camp.


Taoiseach Micheál Martin is looking for his uncle Philip Martin, who served in the Royal Engineers and was a prisoner of war in Changi during World War II. Photo: Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore

My father has fond memories of coming home,” he said.

“There were four brothers and they all went different ways. My father joined the Irish Army so there must be a stubborn streak there because the other three brothers were in the British Army,” he added.

The Taoiseach said the three brothers were having a “good meeting” when Philip got home and the occasion was marked by a photograph of the four siblings at their home on St Patrick’s Street in Cork.

“They wanted to do great things together, found transport companies together, but they all went their separate ways. Philip later served in the Middle East and was a football scout and sent good footballers to Nottingham Forest. He was a good footballer himself and played for the British Combined Services,” he said.

Mr Martin said his family’s links to the British Army have enhanced his “reflections on history”.

“I’m less fixated on having family members in the British Army. It gives you a better understanding of the complexity of the story. Because different people have different experiences, many of which come from business,” he added.

Mr Martin raised LGBT rights with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his official visit to the city-state.

He outlined Ireland’s journey from the 1970s, when there were laws banning homosexuality, to the marriage equality referendum of 2015.


War photo of Paddy Martin, father of Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore

Singapore still has laws affecting gay rights, and legislation from 2008 banning sex between men is still in the code books, although not rigorously enforced.

During an hour-long meeting, the Taoiseach also explained his view on the death penalty, which is still in force in Singapore, and told Mr. Lee Ireland he was against the death penalty as a punishment for crimes.

However, the prime minister said his country had a “zero tolerance” policy towards drug trafficking and insisted the death penalty was necessary as a serious deterrent to criminals involved in legitimate trafficking.

The two leaders had “good chemistry” and went on very well.

Mr Lee and Mr Martin discussed a range of issues relating to Irish and European affairs, including discussing Brexit, the Northern Ireland Protocol and EU-UK relations.

They also discussed climate change and the challenges it poses, particularly for Singapore as a low-lying country is vulnerable to rising water levels.

The Taoiseach highlighted Ireland’s wind energy ambitions, which he later said could be like the country hitting oil at a trade dinner.

The two leaders also discussed the complicated issue of Taiwan and China as a key geopolitical issue in the region.

Singapore favors the status quo to maintain peace, but Ireland, along with other Western countries, is concerned about Chinese control of the region.

They also spoke about the war in Ukraine and talked about global efforts to counter Russia’s illegal war.

Mr Martin later attended an Enterprise Ireland lunch at the Shangri La Hotel, where he praised the work of Irish officials in leading to billions of dollars in trade between the two countries.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/taoiseach-visits-singapore-prison-where-his-uncle-was-held-by-the-japanese-army-during-world-war-ii-41859507.html Taoiseach visits the Singapore prison where his uncle was held by the Japanese Army during World War II

Fry Electronics Team

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