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Historians team up with gardai to trace relatives of World War I internees

HISTORIANS and the Garda Siochana are attempting to trace relatives of more than 2,600 German and Austro-Hungarian citizens who were interned in Ireland during World War I.

The move is part of a major campaign to mark the centenary of Ireland's connections to the 1914-18 war.

The internment of German and Austro-Hungarian citizens on the outbreak of the war is one of the long forgotten aspects of Ireland's involvement in the Great War. But while 300 people were effectively imprisoned for no other reason than their nationality, Ireland's major involvement came when 2,300 captured German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war (POW) were shipped to Tipperary and Meath.

The main facilities used were Richmond Barracks in Templemore, Co Tipperary (now the Garda College), and Oldcastle, Co Meath.

A major research project by the Garda College's Sgt John Reynolds, TippFM's Tom Hurley and historian Gerry Boylan has unearthed relatives of those who spent time behind barbed wire in Ireland.

"The British decided to transfer the civilian internees (from Templemore) to a camp in Oldcastle, Co Meath, and instead use Richmond Barracks solely for the purpose of imprisoning the captured German soldiers and military personnel," Mr Hurley explained.

"These prisoners of war began arriving in Templemore in September 1914 and were gone by March the following year."

The tragedy for many of the internees and POWs was that, after being transferred to detention camps in the UK, many later fell victim to disease and despair.

Researchers are hoping a Tipp FM documentary on Irish internment and POWs will help trace relatives of other detainees. Sgt Reynolds said the Garda College is keen to mount a special historical exhibition on the period next year.

The documentary, 'Turnhalle Barracks – German Prisoners of War in Templemore', can be heard on www.tippfm.com or as a podcast.

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