Monday 23 October 2017

Taoiseach and President salute our fallen heroes

Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny joined military families at a national ceremony to commemorate Irish soldiers who died in past wars.

The National Day of Commemoration has been held since 1986 to remember not just those who died on UN peace-keeping missions with the Irish Defence Forces, but also Irishmen who fought in World War I and World War II with the British Army.

Mr Kenny opened the prayer service in the courtyard of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin by referring to the broad-based nature of the ceremony.

"It is fitting that we remember here today all those Irish men and Irish women who died in past wars or on service with the United Nations," he said.

The ceremony – which included a flypast by four Irish Air Corps Pilatus PC-9M planes – was attended by many families and friends of those who had died in the line of duty.

Jackie Devereux (71) was attending in memory of his cousin, Corporal James Fagan, who died on peace-keeping duty in Cyprus in 1968 after dropping home his commanding officer.

"His Land Rover overturned on a bad bend at night time. At that time the petrol tank was underneath the driver's seat and all the petrol went over him when it toppled over. He lived for 18 hours afterwards," he said.

Mr Devereux served with the FCA for over 40 years in Donnycarney in Dublin and travelled from there to the ceremony via bus and Luas on his electric wheelchair.

Also at the ceremony was Michael Colton (81), who served in the Congo, and his son Patrick, who served five times in the Lebanon. Mr Colton Snr said he had known all nine of the Irish soldiers who were killed in the Niemba ambush in the Congo in 1960.

"I actually came home with the bodies on the escort and went back again," he said.

Mr Colton was also remembering his own father, who fought with the British Army in the trenches in France in World War I.

"He was badly injured with a lot of wounds, bayonet wounds and machine gun fire. But the worst part was the gas. For the last nine years of his life he was in bed. He was only 64 when he passed away," he said.

There was a strong political presence at the ceremony. Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was there with six other members of the Cabinet, namely Ruairi Quinn, Alan Shatter, Brendan Howlin, Joan Burton, Leo Varadkar and Jimmy Deenihan.

Junior Ministers Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Joe Costello, Fergus O'Dowd and government chief whip Paul Kehoe were also in attendance.

The ceremony included prayers from the Catholic Church and Church of Ireland as well as the Methodist, Presbyterian, Jewish and Islamic communities.

Music was provided by the Army number one band, led by soprano Celine Byrne.

Irish Independent

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