Cross-Border tribute to war dead signifies era of peace
THERE was no sound of whirring emanating from the graves of Irish patriots such as Daniel O'Connell, Michael Collins and Kevin Barry as a platoon of armed soldiers bearing the insignia of the Ulster Volunteers marched in formation through Glasnevin Cemetery.
But the weaponry wasn't real, and the ceremony was strictly symbolic – but no less significant for that.
A crowd from both north and south of the Border gathered in Glasnevin yesterday for what was one of a series of commemorations taking place around the island to mark Remembrance Day. On Sunday, the Taoiseach and Tanaiste attended ceremonies in Enniskillen and Belfast to honour the soldiers who died while serving in the British army during World War I.
Yesterday, Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan represented the Government at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, alongside British ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott and Minister for State for Northern Ireland Andrew Robathan.
The ceremony was preceded by the opening of an exhibition at the cemetery's museum titled the 'Third Home Rule Crisis – The Unionist Response' which features artefacts and documents on Unionism in Ireland between 1912 and 1914.
The exhibition was opened by Mr Deenihan, who said: "There can be no better place to host this exhibition than here in Glasnevin Cemetery – this truly unique place cares for the final resting places of over a million men, women and children as the founder Daniel O'Connell said 'of all religions and of none'."
After the launch, the Arts Minister added: "This is an example of how we can commemorate our shared history together. To understand the partition of Ireland and subsequent events, you have to understand Home Rule, and for many years people didn't understand – or didn't want to understand – the Unionist position."
He confirmed that the ongoing preparations for the series of centenary events planned over the next three years leading to the 1916 Easter Rising were on track.
Then a small parade of representatives of various groups in the North stepped forward to place wreaths, including the Ulster Unionist Party, the East Belfast Ladies Somme Society, the Great War Society and the Progressive Unionist Party, who had attached a card which read: "It is our solemn duty to remember the great and selfless sacrifices of our forefathers."
Finally, a lone bugler played the Last Post as families of fallen soldiers added their wreaths.
The British ambassador said it was important remembrance ceremonies were "conducted in a spirit of openness and tolerance. I thought it was remarkably open and tolerant today to see people dressed up in the gear the Ulster Volunteers wore 100 years ago, being in Glasnevin laying the wreaths. I think it's very much to the credit of the people here that they should allow this freedom of expression."