Irish losses during liberation of Europe recalled in Dublin
Service of remembrance attended by diplomats and representatives of church and State
Albert Sutton, (RAF), left, and Ken McLean, (Royal Artillery) with standard bearers at the commemoration service for those who served in World War II, at Monkstown Parish Church, Co. Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Former servicemen, relatives and representatives from the diplomatic corps, the Defence Forces and the State have taken part in an ecumenical service in Dublin to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in northern France.
The service was led by Canon Patrick Lawrence of Monkstown Church of Ireland church, along with the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev Michael Jackson; the Rev Asa Olafsdottir from Dun Laoghaire parish; and the Very Rev Fr Michael Coady PP of St Patrick’s church also in Monkstown.
Journalist Kevin Myers, who gave the address during the service, contrasted the European landmass of today with that in 1944. Countries which are now democracies were controlled by totalitarian regimes “equipped with the tools such regimes specialise in,” he said.
These included “secret police, summary execution, death camps and limitless powers of torture”.
“Yet within a year much of western Europe was freed of such horrors. Then, within rather more than a generation, accountable governments with predictable laws were in power over the world’s largest landmass.”
D-Day, he said, was the origin of the recovery of these lands from tyranny.
Citing Ireland’s contribution to that fight, he said that in June 1944 alone 301 Irishmen in British and Canadian forces lost their lives in the fight against the Third Reich.
The death rate among female members of the services were not as high, he added “but 16 per cent of all military British nursing deaths were were of Irish women.”
Turning to their families he said: “There are memorials to the dead, but none to the bereaved.”
Women who lost their husband and sons had become “orphans in reverse”.
“It comes down to this,” he said. “When faced by murderous tyranny, democracy can only survive when strong men are prepared to die in its defence.”
From 1943 until the end of the war, he continued, “more than 800 soldiers from independent, neutral Ireland lost their lives in the freeing of Europe. In 1944 alone, from both North and South, some 1,900 soldiers were killed serving in UK forces.”
Detailing the Irish casualties in all branches of the British forces, Mr Myers added: “This is not to excuse the mass slaughter of German civilian by Allied bombers, merely to record the scale and sometimes the complexity of Irish service.”