Tribute to honour Irish war dead

Published Thursday, 31 July 2014
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Irish President Michael D Higgins and the Duke of Kent have unveiled the first ever Cross of Sacrifice in the Republic of Ireland to commemorate those who died in the two world wars.

Tribute to honour Irish war dead
The dedication ceremony was held in Dublin. (© UTV)

It is the latest milestone in the recent official recognition of Irish citizens who fought in the wars, who for decades were forgotten, pilloried and blacklisted for joining the British armed forces.

The memorial to as many as 60,000 Irishmen and women killed in combat stands in Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery, the country's largest burial ground and resting place to many of the state's founding fathers.

Just two years ago, the Irish Government apologised for the treatment of 4,500 Irishmen branded deserters for signing up to the fight against Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The Cross of Sacrifice is erected in cemeteries around the world holding the graves of 40 or more war dead.

Ireland was the only such country not to have one.

It is important that the First World War, and those whose lives it claimed, be not left as a blank space in Irish history.

President Michael D Higgins

President Higgins said: "Today is a significant day, as we dedicate this Cross of Sacrifice - the first such Cross to be erected in the Republic of Ireland.

"On an occasion such as this we eliminate all the barriers that have stood between those Irish soldiers whose lives were taken in the war, whose remains for which we have responsibility, and whose memories we have a duty to respect.

"We cannot give back their lives to the dead, nor whole bodies to those who were wounded, or repair the grief, undo the disrespect that was sometimes shown to those who fought or their families.

"But we honour them all now, even if at a distance, and we do not ask, nor would it be appropriate to interrogate, their reasons for enlisting.

"If they could come back no doubt they would have questions to ask as to why it was, and how it came to be that their lives were taken."

The duke said it was an important step in the continuing process of remembering those who died.

"This represents a lasting tribute to their sacrifice and it is my hope, in the years to come, that memorials such as these continue to inspire successive generations to remember," he said.

We are extremely grateful to the Irish Government, public and the Glasnevin Trust, all of whom have done so much to support our work of commemoration and remembrance in Ireland.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

There are more than 200 fallen soldiers from the world wars buried in Glasnevin alone and over 3,000 laid to rest or commemorated at 670 locations throughout the Republic.

The majority were casualties who died in the UK and were taken home for burial by their families.

But there are also many who were killed in ships torpedoed and sunk in the Second World War and whose bodies were washed ashore.

Deirdre Mills, director of UK operations with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), said she was delighted the landmark commemoration coincides with the centenary of the First World War.

She added: "The cross is an important feature of our work worldwide, commemorating those from both Ireland and throughout the Commonwealth who gave their lives during both world wars."

It is estimated around 210,000 Irishmen served in the British forces during the First World War, with many Irish descendants serving with other allied forces.

As many as 50,000 Irishmen died in the war.

In the Second World War, up to 100,000 Irishmen served and some 10,000 were killed.

Around 1,000 civilians were killed during air raids.

The Cross of Sacrifice was originally designed by renowned architect Sir Reginald Blomfield.

It represents the faith of the majority and the human sacrifice of all Commonwealth war dead, according to CWGC, which maintains the graves of 1.7 million servicemen and women who died in the conflicts.

© UTV News
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10 Comments
Dub in Dublin wrote (89 days ago):
RIP to all the Irishmen who died in both World Wars and for those who fought for our freedom.
JJ in Belfast wrote (90 days ago):
Good to see the recognition for all Irishmen north and south who died in the Great War 100 years ago. Wonder what they would say today about the fools marking out territories with flags and marching all these years later. Fools all of them I suspect.
Concerned Ulster Citizen in Banbridge wrote (90 days ago):
God Bless those brave bold men and women. The pain and suffering they went through at war, only to return to an alien Ireland (26 counties) which treated them and their families so horribly and painfully. True heroes of Ireland - not those who shoot and murdered people with booby trap bombs or shot people in the back. Long live their memories! Éirinn go Brách - but only with it real and true history totally told!
humbled protestant in belfast wrote (91 days ago):
at the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them. rest in peace to all those that fought side by side regardless of where they came from
Jim in Cork wrote (91 days ago):
This day brings 6 of my relatives from WW1 & WW2 out of the dark forgotten history in Ireland and restores the dignity that was stolen from them over many years. It is a shame they could not be honoured earlier because of 'politics'. The men and women that lay in their graves, laid down their lives for something they believed in, and sadly men and women like that are not around today. There needs to be more co-operation from people on this island about the issues that matter and bring us together like today's events. These soldiers put on a uniform, look at themselves in the mirror, kissed their loved ones goodbye and went to do their duty. They served us, not how do we serve them? Step up to the plate and put division aside once and for all. Lest we forget....Go n-éiri an t-ádh leat mo chairde.
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