Sunday 26 October 2014

Higgins remembers battlefield heroes

Brian Byrne

Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30

President Higgins makes official visit to Festival Interceltique de Lorient, France and to WW1 Commemorations in Liege and Mons, Belgium, 1-4 August 2014

President Michael D Higgins will be welcomed by the King and Queen of Belgiium today at a ceremony to mark the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of World War I.

More than 70 countries have been invited to attend commemorative events in the Belgian city of Liege, where Ireland will be among 16 countries represented by a Head of State.

Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina will participate in a ceremony at the Monument Interalliés at Cointe, and attend a lunch at the Prince-Bishops Palace.

Later this evening, they will attend a second commemmorative service hosted by the UK at St Symphorien Military Cemetery in the city of Mons.

Some 513 soldiers from Britain, Ireland, Canada, Belgium and Germany are buried in the cemetery here and senior representatives from these countries have been invited to attend the ceremony.

Mr Higgins' participation in the events is part of his four- day official visit to France and Belgium, which ends today.

Yesterday, Mr Higgins attended the Grande Parade des 
Nations Celtes and reception at the Stade du Moustoir, in Brittany, France.

He also met with the local GAA community and representatives of Brittany GAA teams.

On Saturday, Mr Higgins visited Irish food and craft stands at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, one of the Europe's largest annual Celtic festivals, which attracts around 700,000 visitors.

He also attended a gala concert in the historic Grand Theatre in Bordeaux, where the Liam O'Flynn Quartet paid homage to Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

According to the Irish National War Memorial at Islandbridge in Co Dublin, some 49,435 Irish soldiers died during the war - however, it's believed the actual figure may be much higher.

At least 200,000 Irish soldiers served during World War I.

Up to 20,000 had joined the regular British Army and another 30,000 were in first line reserve when they went to war in 1914.

Another 140,000 people signed up during the war, bringing the total to 206,000.

Irish Independent

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