British commemorations of first World War ‘will reflect Irish involvement’
Centenary events offer opportunity for reconciliation, says Cameron adviser
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British prime minister David Cameron visit the grave of Irish MP Willie Redmond, who died in the first World War, in Heuvelland, Belgium, last month. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.
first World War will reflect the reality that some 200,000 Irishmen fought and at least 30,000 died in the conflict, Dr Andrew Murrison MP, special representative of British prime minister David Cameron, told a conference about the war at University College Cork at the weekend.
Dr Murrison said the commemorations offered a great opportunity for reconciliation both between Britain and Ireland and between the different traditions within Ireland.
“We will hold national events in Britain to mark the start and end of the war and the great battles and campaigns in which Irishmen took part.
“Those national events will have a commonwealth look and feel, or rather I should say an Ireland and commonwealth feel, reflecting the reality of the time.”
Addressing the opening day of the two-day conference, entitled Ireland and the First World War: ‘In Defence of Right, of Freedom and of Religion’?, organised by the school of history at UCC, Dr Murrison noted recent comments on the conflict by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.
He acknowledged Mr Gilmore’s description of the war “as a divisive part of our troubled legacy” which had led to a tendency to avoid any interrogation of Irish involvement for decades but now provided an opportunity for reflection on “our common humanity and heritage”.
He revealed that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will later this year erect a Cross of Sacrifice in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin to honour all the Irish men and women, from North and South, who perished in the war.