New cross marks stark sacrifice of Irish war dead
Published 01/08/2014 | 02:30
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins and the Duke of Kent unveiled the Cross of Sacrifice dedicated to fallen Irish heroes of two world wars.
The monument was formally unveiled to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War and to commemorate the thousands of Irish soldiers who died in the First and Second World War.
Embedded with a bronze sword, the cross now stands beside the graves of over 200 Irish commonwealth service men who were laid to rest in the national cemetery.
Giving an emotional speech in front of the families of those who died, President Higgins said the occasion marks a significant day in Irish history.
"Today we eliminate all the barriers that have stood between those Irish soldiers whose lives were taken in the war, whose remains for which we have responsibility, and whose memories we have a duty to respect," he said.
"We cannot give back their lives to the dead, nor whole bodies to those who were wounded, or repair the grief, undo the disrespect that was sometimes shown to those who fought or their families, but we honour them all now."
The Duke of Kent said the cross is an important step in the continuing process of consolidating the past.
"It represents a lasting tribute to their sacrifice and it is my hope, in years to come, that memorials such as these continue to inspire successive generations to remember," he said.
"I hope the memories of all those who died are as solid and perpetual as the limestone used to form the cross."
Designed by architect Sir Reginald Blomfield, the cross was built in a collaborative venture between the Glasnevin Trust and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It represents many faiths and none.
Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald attended the ceremony.
Lieutenant colonel William J Arnold, from Dundrum, served as career soldier with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and fought in both World Wars.
Speaking after the ceremony his son, Patrick Arnold said:
"Although he died of natural causes he was very psychologically and emotionally wounded by the war, he never mentioned it because the memories, noise and stench were too powerful. He lived with guilt that he survived.
"The cross now gives us all a central point, spanning all religions and all class across the island and I hope in 10, 50 or 100 years people will gather together in their memory."