Premiers pay respects to Irish war dead

Published Thursday, 19 December 2013
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The British and Irish premiers both paid their respects to those killed in the First World War during a visit to the former Western Front.

Premiers pay respects to Irish war dead
David Cameron and Enda Kenny visit the Island of Ireland Peace Park. (© PA)

David Cameron and Enda Kenny visited sites across Flanders in Belgium.

In a poignant moment, the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach laid wreaths at the grave of the Irish nationalist William Redmond.

The site is known as the "lonely grave" after Redmond requested to be buried outside the British military cemetery at Locre in response to the Easter Rising executions.

Captain Redmond died aged 56 after going over the top in the 1917 battle of Messines.

The burial site is seen as an emblem of the alienation Irish Catholics felt from their countrymen at that time.

The visit was part of the decade of centenary commemorations of key events between 2012 and 2022.

The visit has been described by the Irish Government as the latest "key milestone" in deepening British-Irish relations.

Announcing the joint visit last month, Mr Kenny said that following the Queen's historic visit to Dublin in 2011, he and Mr Cameron had been keen to mark the sacrifice of those killed or injured on the battlefield.

They began their trip at the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines, a memorial to the 50,000 Irish war dead who fought in British uniform in an era of heightened tension at home.

Both laid wreaths, with Mr Kenny's reading "In honour of all those who died" conducted in both Gaelic and English.

The men surveyed the former battlefield including a site of the Boxing Day truce football match.

After stopping at Captain Redmond's grave, they visited the village of Wytschaete, where the 16th (Dublin) and 36th (Ulster) divisions advanced together in the bloody 1917 Messines Ridge offensive.

They then met Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo at the Menin Gate Memorial which is dedicated to British and Commonwealth soldiers whose graves are unknown.

The tour finished at Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world.

Nearly all of us in Britain have some family connection with that conflict, and it is the many millions of small, personal stories that resonate as loudly for us as the big, world-changing battles and campaigns.

David Cameron

Mr Cameron used the visit to announce £5m in new funding to help conserve, repair and protect First World War memorials and graves across the UK and overseas where British and Commonwealth servicemen and women are buried.

The extra money, funded by Libor fines and spread over the four years of the First World War centenary, will also fund new educational materials.

The Conservative Party leader's great, great uncle, Captain John Geddes died in the second battle of Ypres in 1915.

He was the first of five members of the Prime Minister's family to be killed in the war.

Mr Cameron said he felt a "strong connection" with members of his family who had died during the war.

The Prime Minister said: "Next year's centenary of the start of the First World War will be a time for the whole nation to reflect on the events that saw so many young people of that generation make the ultimate sacrifice.

"It is absolutely right that we help communities up and down the country to ensure that their local war memorials are a fitting tribute to the fallen and increase people's understanding of what happened.

"We simply should not tolerate damaged war graves in our country."

© UTV News
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5 Comments
Michael Monaghan in Belfast wrote (123 days ago):
Yes I agree 'sam1690' - but would'nt it be good to see the British Government 'mature' now and start showing respect to the other community in the North of Ireland the Nationalist and Republican community that have been treated and continue to be treated like second class citzens from 1921 ...time to promote and respect or IRISHNESS ? ... What signs of IRISHNESS does the state provide for us ... Hmmmm .. NONE ?
Rab in The somme wrote (126 days ago):
Ira men should take note these were were young men who fought to the death face to face in treacherous conditions they didnt rob rackateer or get paid protection money.they fought for there love of ireland and there love of britain the lived,cried and even had a few brandys together....and ultimateley the fell to their deaths together the german bombs were not sectarian nor did they win an awful war...
Sam1690 in Ballysillan wrote (126 days ago):
It's great to see the Government of the Republic of Ireland starting to mature. it has taken them almost 100 years to start to acknowledge the role of Irishmen who served the crown in the first world war. This comes on the back of an apology earlier this year for the shameful treatment of brave Irishmen who left Ireland to fight the Nazi's in WW2 in British uniforms, who were then ostricised on their return. Progress has taken a century, but Ireland is starting to warm their relationship with us here in the UK.
Richard in Ireland wrote (126 days ago):
Amazing how the relationship between our two nations has changed for the better.
realistic in planet earth wrote (126 days ago):
excellent to see, times they really are a changing, excellent! DEEKO- look - the british prime minister standing at a tri-color AND laying a wreath at the grave of a NATIONALIST and REPUBLICAN...... :)
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