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United in silence as war dead are honoured

SOLEMN silence, mournful tributes and seas of red poppy wreaths honoured the war dead of the bloodiest conflicts at events in Dublin, Belfast and Britain for the annual Remembrance Sunday.

This year's commemorative ceremonies took on an even greater significance as dignitaries, politicians, veterans of conflicts past and present, and family members of the deceased joined together to mark the centenary anniversary of the commencement of the First World War.

For the third year in succession, Taoiseach Enda Kenny took part in a ceremony in Enniskillen - the scene of one of the Troubles' worst incidents when 12 people died in an IRA bombing in 1987.

Yesterday's event was a unified one as Mr Kenny laid a laurel wreath at the foot of the town's war memorial among the sea of red poppys.

"This is all part of the process of uniting the people both east and west, north and south. And that is very significant," the Taoiseach said.

"There's a certain poignancy about Enniskillen and I think it's significant that the Taoiseach is able to come to Enniskillen for the third year in a row," he added.

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The Irish United Nations Veterans Association at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London. Photo: PA

The Irish United Nations Veterans Association at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London. Photo: PA

PA

A war veteran gestures during the ceremony in London. Photo: Reuters

A war veteran gestures during the ceremony in London. Photo: Reuters

Reuters

A photograph of Corporal Thomas William Belton, who died in Belgium in World War One at the age of 25, is placed on railings surrounding the 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' installation in the moat of the Tower of London. Photo: Getty Images

A photograph of Corporal Thomas William Belton, who died in Belgium in World War One at the age of 25, is placed on railings surrounding the 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' installation in the moat of the Tower of London. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

Two schoolchildren look at the names of the fallen soldiers at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, the UK, yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Two schoolchildren look at the names of the fallen soldiers at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, the UK, yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

Taoiseach Enda Kenny lays a wreath on the cenotaph in Enniskillen. Photo: John McVitty

Taoiseach Enda Kenny lays a wreath on the cenotaph in Enniskillen. Photo: John McVitty

Irish Ambassador to London Dan Mulhall lays a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, London. Photo: PA

Irish Ambassador to London Dan Mulhall lays a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, London. Photo: PA

PA

Enda Kenny lays a wreath in Enniskillen on Sunday. Photo: Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press

Enda Kenny lays a wreath in Enniskillen on Sunday. Photo: Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press

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The Irish United Nations Veterans Association at the Cenotaph memorial in Whitehall, central London. Photo: PA

The centre stage of Britain's commemoration ceremony was the Cenotaph in London where the queen led tributes to the war dead and a two-minute silence was signalled as Big Ben struck for 11am.

And on the historical occasion of the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, more history was made in London where a diplomat from Ireland laid a laurel wreath at the Cenotaph - the first time in nearly 70 years.

Irish ambassador Dan Mulhall accepted the invitation to pay tribute to those who gave their lives in war - including the 50,000 Irishmen who served with the British forces and lost their lives in the First World War.

The significance of Ireland's involvement in the very moving ceremony in London was recognised at another ceremony in Belfast, where the State's Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan was in attendance, alongside the North's First Minister Peter Robinson and the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, who also praised the gesture.

"I think it's a great step forward that the Irish ambassador has laid a wreath at the Cenotaph," she said after attending the commemorations in Belfast.

"I think it's a great illustration of the renewed warmth in the relationship between the UK and Ireland and it is very important that we recognise there were thousands of men from the whole of the island of Ireland, north and south, who gave their lives in the uniform of the British Army in World War One and I think it's important their sacrifice is remembered and commemorated."

Mr Flanagan said it was a day to reflect on the sad events of a century ago.

"I was pleased to accept the invitation to participate in today's ceremony at the Belfast Cenotaph and to lay a wreath, on behalf of the Irish Government, to remember all those who died," he said.

"I believe attendance at such commemorations shows respect for all traditions and helps further reconciliation on the island of Ireland and across these islands."

Dublin also played host to the annual Remembrance Day commemorations with a service at St Patrick's Cathedral. The Tanaiste was the Government's representative at the ceremony, along with the President's Aide de Camp Col Brendan McAndrew.

Also in attendance were the British and US ambassadors to Ireland, and the capital's Lord Mayor Christy Burke, who was confronted by protesters outside St Patrick's Cathedral.

Mr Burke defended his decision to take part in the ceremony and said those who refused to recognise the past were holding back peace.

"I commemorate all men and women who died in wars, every one of them," he told a protester and representatives from the Irish Anti-War Movement.

"For 800 years, by ignoring people, people lost lives."

Chairman of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Tom Burke called for the annual service to alternate between St Patrick's Cathedral and the Pro Cathedral for a more all-inclusive commemoration.

Irish Independent