François Hollande to visit Ireland despite Nice attack

French president is due to visit the State next week to discuss Brexit and security issues

French president Francois Hollande is to go ahead with a visit to Ireland next week despite Thursday’s terror attack in Nice. File photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

French president Francois Hollande is to go ahead with a visit to Ireland next week despite Thursday’s terror attack in Nice. File photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

 

French president François Hollande is to go ahead with a visit to Ireland next week despite Thursday’s terror attack in Nice.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has confirmed that the one-day visit next Thursday is proceeding.

Mr Hollande intends to come to Ireland to discuss Brexit and security issues. He will also meet with President Michael D Higgins.

However, Mr Hollande will no longer be unveiling a new memorial in Glasnevin dedicated to the Irish who died while fighting in France during his visit.

The memorial is a gift by the French government to Ireland.

The memorial is based on the wooden Ginchy Cross, which was carved from the beams of a ruined farmhouse by the 11th Hampshires, a pioneer battalion attached to the 16th (Irish) Division.

The 16th liberated the villages of Guillemont and Ginchy in September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.

The memorial will include on its base a tribute to the Irish soldiers from the former Allied supreme commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch, which was first published in The Irish Times in 1928.

“Some of the flower of the Irish chivalry rests in the cemeteries that have been reserved in France, and the French people will always have these reminders of the debt that France owes to Irish valour.

“We shall always see that the graves of these heroes from across the sea are lovingly tended and we shall try to ensure that the generations that come after us shall never forget the heroic dead of Ireland.”

Personal interest

Mr Hollande has taken a personal interest in the memorial, which is the first France has erected to the Irish who died in both World Wars and the Franco-Prussian War.

The design was in its early stages at the time of the terror attacks in Paris in November last year.

Five students from the Parisian École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Art) were killed in the attacks.

After the shooting, Mr Hollande requested that the sculptor Patrice Alexandre, who teaches at the school, and some of his students be commissioned to design and build the memorial.

The monument has been made from Irish blue limestone, taken from the Threecastles quarry outside Kilkenny city.

Threecastles managing director James McKeon described it as the “most exciting piece of monumental work I have been involved in. It incorporates in a very special way art and remembrance”.

Glasnevin Trust chief executive George McCullough said the memorial’s unveiling was being postponed until a later date.