President attends 'healing' occasion

 

PRESIDENT MARY McAleese attended a ceremony in Killarney yesterday to commemorate townsmen who served and died in the first World War.

After his recovery his grandfather worked as a rates collector with Killarney Town Council, but he never spoke of the war. Donal, a member of the memorial committee who organised yesterday’s events, yesterday wore his grandfather’s three medals.

James O’Sullivan from Ball Alley Lane in Killarney was wounded three times and fought for the whole of the war, seeing action at the Dardanelles, at Gallipoli and the Somme and was not demobbed until 1919. He had seen a comrade blown to pieces in a trench. Every November on Armistice Day he would quietly stand in front of the Munster Fusiliers memorial, but would never speak of his experiences, his son Jerry O’Sullivan said.

Patsy O’Carroll recalled her uncle Jack O’Keeffe, who returned from the war shell-shocked. She had brought his three medals along to the ceremony, which she found “sad” and moving.

Mark Kidney wore the medal awarded to his granduncle Jerome Guerin, who had died in the war.

Tracy Eagar, whose grandfather and three granduncles fought in three different units in the Great War – and during it met coincidentally at Bruges – presented the President with a bouquet of flowers.

The chairman of the memorial committee, town councillor Michael Courtney, said the committee had identified more than 300 men from Killarney who had fought, and 200 of these had died.

The President, who was accompanied by her husband Dr Martin McAleese, said: “Time allows us to look differently at things.”

When Ireland was “undivided” and a British colony, at one time 40 per cent of all those serving in the British forces were Irish, she added.

President McAleese congratulated the committee for “healing their memory and drawing them back into memory and drawing them back into the community”.

“This is a very solemn thing you do this day,” she said.