Jeffrey Donaldson calls for restoration of Glasnevin memorial wall

‘Half-finished’ wall partially hidden from view since attack last year

The "sensitive, inclusive and visionary" memorial wall at Glasnevin Cemetery should be restored and completed, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

Much of the wall – which bears the names of all those who died on both sides of the 1916 Rising – has been hidden from view since it was attacked by vandals last year.

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O'Callaghan has also joined others such as RTÉ broadcaster Joe Duffy, an author of a book on children who were killed in the Rising, in calling for the wall to be restored saying it can't be left "half-finished".

Tarpaulin has covered the names of 488 people killed in the Rising since shortly after vandals used a sledgehammer to remove the names of some British soldiers who were killed, also damaging the names of some Irish Volunteers in the process. The necrology wall was first damaged in April 2017 when paint was thrown over it.

‘Virtual wall’

There are plans to add more than 4,000 names of people who died on both sides during the War of Independence and Civil War, though a source told The Irish Times at the weekend that this could be abandoned in favour of a “virtual wall” with the names inscribed on a database. Dublin Cemeteries Trust decided not to add more names after the first attack and a review – which is ongoing – was launched into the wall’s “long-term safety implications”.

The trust’s board is to make a decision on the matter in the next few months.

Lagan Valley MP Mr Donaldson said he “certainly” supports the resumption of the memorial project and the restoration of the wall.

He said: “It is a measure of just how far we still have to travel on the journey to reconciliation that there remain those in our midst whose ignorance of history and complete lack of tolerance and respect motivates them to engage in acts of vandalism and to desecrate a memorial to all who died in events that occurred over 100 years ago.”

Praised the trustees

Mr Donaldson praised the trustees of the cemetery for “the sensitive, inclusive and visionary way in which they have sought to commemorate all who lost their lives in the tragic period that shaped the history of Ireland in the 20th and 21st centuries.”

He said: “This must of necessity comprise people from both sides of the conflict, including the British armed forces. Surely if we are to have any kind of shared future, it cannot be built upon a lack of understanding of our shared history. Airbrushing the British presence from that history impresses or convinces no one, least of all the unionist community.”

Mr Donaldson said: “Her majesty the queen set a wonderful example for all when she visited Dublin and adopted an inclusive approach to remembrance in a way that promotes reconciliation. Surely this is the path we need to take and not one that leads to further division and hatred.”

United Ireland

Senior Fianna Fáil TD Mr O'Callaghan – who last month outlined his vision for a united Ireland in a speech in Cambridge – said that the trust needs to make a decision about the future of the wall adding: "It has been built, names have been engraved and it can't just be left there half-finished."

He said it should be completed and that “recording those names on the wall does not mean that the State attributes moral equivalence to the actions of all those who died, or that the State is in some way honouring those who opposed Irish freedom. It is appropriate that throughout the country there are many memorials to those who fought and died for Irish freedom. They deserve to be honoured.

“But the wall is simply an objective and public record of all those who died, civilian and combatant, without judgment being passed on their death or cause,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

Dublin Cemeteries Trust said it had nothing to add to a statement issued last week. That statement said that following a number of acts of vandalism that caused “significant damage” to the wall the trust took a decision to halt proceeding with further inscriptions on the wall while its review was being carried out.

“The review, which has been hampered as a result of Covid, is ongoing.”

It added: “The essence of the concept behind the necrology wall is remembrance and reflection, based on historical fact, in a non-judgmental, non-hierarchical manner, of each and every person who died as a result of the conflict in Ireland from Easter 1916 to the end of the Civil War in 1923.

“Specifically in relation to the tarpaulin, it is standard protective building material and has been in place since February of last year when the wall was vandalised, sustaining significant damage.”