War dead remembered in Armistice Day ceremony
THE SHARED history of Irish people from nationalist and unionist traditions was highlighted yesterday at an Armistice Day commemoration in Dublin.
At a ceremony in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery, wreaths were laid at two recently relocated screen walls that bear the names of Irish soldiers buried in the cemetery who were killed in the two World Wars.
The walls had originally been unveiled some years ago “slightly out of sight and certainly without due ceremony”, according to the chairman of Glasnevin Trust John Green.
He added that this was a mistake due to the “political and economic constraints” of the past. It was a mistake that he said he hoped could be rectified by the recent relocation of the walls to the front area of the cemetery.
During the ceremony, the British and German ambassadors to Ireland laid wreaths at the foot of the walls, as did Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Brian Hayes.
Paying tribute to the men and women named on the walls, some of whom had family members in attendance, Mr Green said that Irish participation in the world wars had for too long gone without proper recognition in the Republic.
“We know how proud you must be of your fore parents but we hope that this ceremony will, in a small degree, enable our nation to share some of that pride,” he said.
Also in attendance yesterday were representatives from community and cross-community groups from Northern Ireland.
A short religious service inside the cemetery’s chapel was jointly led by Fr Séamus Ahern of Finglas, Dublin, and Rev Mark Gardiner of Donor in Co Louth.
“While we are still reflecting on how we treated different allegiances and traditions over the last 100 years, we might also consider the powerful symbolism of Daniel O’Connell’s stated purpose in establishing Glasnevin Cemetery – ‘to bury people of all religions and none’,” said Mr Green.
Dave O’Brien from Castleknock in Dublin, a great nephew of Private Thomas Rapple who died in 1918, spoke about the importance of having proper recognition for his grand-uncle, who he had believed until recently to be buried in India where he had died.
“He was buried here in an unmarked grave and has been lying here in an unmarked grave basically for 93 years,” Mr O’Brien said.
A general consensus exists between historians that at least 35,000 Irish soldiers died in the first World War fighting for the British army and navy, and the figure on the National War Memorial is 49,400.