Ex-taoisigh among dignitaries at wreath-laying ceremony


ATTENDANCE:FORMER TAOISIGH Brian Cowen, Bertie Ahern and Albert Reynolds attended the wreath-laying by President McAleese and Queen Elizabeth at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin city centre yesterday afternoon.

The former heads of government were present with the other members of the Council of State, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore.

This is understood to be the first time the presidential advisory body attended a wreath-laying ceremony of this kind and Government sources said they were present at the personal request of the President.

The laying of a wreath at the garden is an element in all State visits. The Taoiseach and Mr Gilmore arrived for the ceremony shortly after 3pm and were followed 15 minutes later by the two heads of state and their spouses.

The President and the Queen were greeted by Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter, Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieut Gen Seán McCann and the General Officer Commanding 2nd Eastern Brigade, Brig Gen Denis Murphy.

Others in attendance included British foreign secretary William Hague, British ambassador to Ireland Julian King, Irish Ambassador to Britain Bobby McDonagh, Attorney General Máire Whelan, Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett and Cathaoirleach of the Seanad Pat Moylan.

Also present were secretary general to the Government Dermot McCarthy, secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs David Cooney and, as members of the Council of State, Chief Justice John Murray, former Ulster Unionist Party councillor Harvey Bicker, Dr Martin Mansergh and managing director of Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia, Mary Davis.

An abridged version of the British national anthem God Save the Queenwas played and the two heads of state laid their laurel wreaths at the foot of Oisín Kelly’s Children of Lír sculpture, which is inspired by the legendary Irish saga.

The sculpture draws its inspiration from the ancient story of three children who are transformed into swans and then changed back after 900 years. It also draws on the WB Yeats poem Easter 1916with its theme of heroic transformation.

A minute’s silence was observed which was terminated by a muffled drum beat. Capt Joseph Freeley from the 2nd Infantry Battalion recited the poem Rinneadh Aisling Duinn (We Saw a Vision)in Irish, which is displayed in Irish, English and French on the walls of the garden.

In English translation, Liam MacUistin’s poem begins: “In the darkness of despair we saw a vision. We lit the light of hope and it was not extinguished.”

After the recital of the poem, the guard of honour from the cadet school commanded by Capt Derek McGourty presented arms and the Last Post was sounded.

The national flag was raised to full mast to the accompaniment of a drum roll. Reveille was sounded, followed by the national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann.

The Combined Army Band was conducted by Lieut Col Mark Armstrong.

Mr Shatter, Lieut Gen McCann and Brig Gen Murphy accompanied the President and the Queen to their cars at the entrance to the garden.

The Garden of Remembrance, which was opened at Easter 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, is dedicated to “the memory of all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom”.