Britain to pay respects at Easter Rising centenary

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan lay foundation stone for memorial to remember the Irish dead from the first World War

Tue, Apr 1, 2014, 01:00


The British government intends to accept an Irish invitation and send representatives to the centenary commemorations for the 1916 Easter Rising in two years, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers has said.

Ms Villiers and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan together laid the foundation stone for the Cross of Sacrifice to remember the Irish dead from the first World War who are buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

The seven-metre tall cross will be unveiled on July 31st and will be the centrepiece memorial in Ireland to mark the 100th anniversary of the first World War. Ms Villiers said the Cross of Sacrifice, coming as it does a week before the state visit by President Michael D Higgins, demonstrated the warmth of the relationship between the governments.

She said it was not generally well-known in either Britain or Ireland just how many Irish soldiers, estimated at 200,000, fought for the British army in the first World War.

Almost a third of the 700,000 eligible Irishmen signed up and an estimated 35,000 were killed.


Respectful commemoration
“We want to see all those centenaries commemorated with respect and in an inclusive way,” she said. “I was grateful that the Tánaiste issued a invitation to the UK government and to the royal family to play a part in those commemorations of 1916. Certainly there will be representation from the British government there.”

Mr Deenihan said the cross will be a “poignant reminder” of the huge number of Irish who signed up to fight. They were part of a “blighted generation” and the war affected families all over the country, he said.

Members of the British and Irish parliamentary assembly, the British ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott and DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, the chair of the Northern Ireland centenary commemoration committee, also attended.

Mr Donaldson said unionists would have difficulties participating in an Easter 1916 event in which they had no part.