Irish ambassador at Mons ceremony

Hundreds gather to pay tribute to war dead

Irish ambassador to Belgium Mr Éamonn Mac Aodha and General Sir Richard Shirreff, deputy supreme allied commander for Europe at the Remembrance Day Service of at St Symphorien Military Cemetery at Mons in Belgium. It was the first time an Irish ambassador has participated in the ceremony.

Irish ambassador to Belgium Mr Éamonn Mac Aodha and General Sir Richard Shirreff, deputy supreme allied commander for Europe at the Remembrance Day Service of at St Symphorien Military Cemetery at Mons in Belgium. It was the first time an Irish ambassador has participated in the ceremony.

 


in Mons, Belgium

Hundreds of people gathered in the cold winter sunshine near Mons in southern Belgium yesterday to pay tribute to men who died on both sides of the conflict during the first World War.

The Belgian town witnessed one of the first battles of the war, when British troops found themselves caught in the path of the German advance towards Paris.

Hundreds of Irish soldiers took part in the battle, which ultimately ended in defeat for the vastly outnumbered allies, representing a major setback for Britain in the opening weeks of the war.

Royal Irish Regiment

For the first time yesterday, Ireland’s ambassador to Belgium took part in the Remembrance Day ceremony at St Symphorien Cemetery, just miles from where the opening shots of the Great War are believed to have been fired. The cemetery is the only first World War graveyard to honour the fallen from both sides of the conflict – 284 German and 230 Commonwealth casualties, including members of the Royal Irish Regiment, are buried there.

Ireland’s ambassador to Belgium Éamonn Mac Aodha and Gen Sir Richard Shirreff, Nato’s deputy supreme allied commander for Europe, laid wreaths at the memorial.

Speaking after the ceremony, Mr Mac Aodha said it was a very appropriate place to honour the memory of young men from Ireland who fought together in the first World War.

“A striking number of men from Ireland, north and south, are buried in Symphorien, including Maurice Dease from Westmeath, the first person to be awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.”

Among other Irish casualties who are buried at St Symphorien are Pte Stephen Ryan from the Royal Irish Regiment, from Cashel, Co Tipperary, who died on August 23rd, 1914, aged 33.

The monument to the Royal Irish Regiment is located nearby at La Bascule near Mons.

Mr Mac Aodha will also take part in today’s wreath-laying ceremony in Ypres, which will be attended by Britain’s Prince Philip.