Kenny and Cameron to visit first World War graves in Belgium

Move is seen as latest step towards deepening British-Irish relations

Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 08:29

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his British counterpart David Cameron will visit first World War graves and memorials on the former Western Front today in the latest step towards deepening British-Irish relations.

Both leaders will pay their respects to those who gave their lives in the first World War at several sites across Flanders in Belgium.

Kenny said that following the Queen’s visit to the Republic in 2011, he and Mr Cameron had been keen to mark the sacrifice of those killed, missing or injured on the battlefield.

He said: “When Queen Elizabeth visited the Republic, the first visit by a reigning monarch in a hundred years, she closed a circle of history and recognised in so many deep ways the story of 50,000 soldiers from the Republic who fought with the Allies in World War One.”

The leaders will visit the Irish Peace Park at Messines, a memorial to the 50,000 Irish war dead, before travelling to the grave of William Redmond, nationalist politician and MP in the Irish Parliamentary party.

Redmond was commissioned as a captain in the Royal Irish Regiment, with whom he served 33 years, and went to France with the 16th (Irish) Division, in the winter of 1915-1916 .

In response to the execution of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, Redmond requested that in the event of his death his grave be located outside the walls of the British military cemetery at Locre. This wish was granted.

Afterwards, the leaders will visit the village of Wytschaete, where the 16th (Dublin) and 36th (Ulster) divisions advanced together in the bloody 1917 Messines Ridge offensive.

Mr Kenny and Mr Cameron will then travel to the Menin Gate Memorial, dedicated to British and Commonwealth soldiers whose graves are unknown, where they will be joined by Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo.

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


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