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Tears as Cross of Sacrifice is unveiled for war heroes

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Dedication of the Cross of Sacrifice at Glasnevin Cemetery with HRH the Duke of Kent and President Higgins. Photo: Doug O'Connor

Dedication of the Cross of Sacrifice at Glasnevin Cemetery with HRH the Duke of Kent and President Higgins. Photo: Doug O'Connor

Dedication of the Cross of Sacrifice at Glasnevin Cemetery with HRH the Duke of Kent and President Higgins. Photo: Doug O'Connor

"Not before its time. It's as simple as that."

This was how Dessie O'Hara from Artane in Dublin summed up the unveiling of the Cross of Sacrifice at Glasnevin Cemetery to commemorate those who died in World War One.

The seven-metre high cross, within view of the graves of Daniel O'Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell, is yet another indication of the growing closeness in Anglo-Irish relations.

Cemeteries across the world have identical crosses where there are graves of 40 or more world war dead -but this is the first one in this country.

President Michael D Higgins and His Royal Highness Edward Duke of Kent may have laid the official wreaths but it was many of the the ordinary people who were reduced to tears.

Jim Kelly, from Blackrock, president of the Royal Air Forces Association Republic of Ireland Branch said: "It's the coming together of everybody that's most important. We all realise we're part of one big family."

Jim, who was awarded an MBE by the Queen for service, mostly in Egypt, was in London during the second world war and "saw it flattened".

Vice-president Alan Harrisson, from Griffith Avenue in Dublin, found yesterday "very emotive".

"We have been waiting a long time and now hands are extended in fellowship with emotion, love and care - phenomenal," he said.

John Whelan of Beaumont, an ex-serviceman with the 7th Battalion of the British Army agreed. "I think its wonderful. It's time we were working together," he said.

For Sean Shinnors, originally from Nenagh and now living in Dublin, it was "a great day, a great coming together with our nearest neighbours".

"It has taken these years to forgive and forget. On both sides there were tragedies but life is so short we should get together and this is happening gradually."

The mindset has changed, added Ronnie O'Connor from Blackrock, whose two uncles served in the war.

"Its great to be part of the day," he said.

More than 200 war dead are buried in Glasnevin and there are about 3,000 Irish men and women who served buried across the country, mostly killed in battle but many who died from their injuries after they returned home.

Emotion

President Higgins, acknowledging how WW1 veterans were shunned, said while we could not "undo the grief and disrespect shown in some cases" to the families of those who died, it was now time to honour them.

The ability to share sombre and profound national memories, he added, "is an important statement and act of friendship and 
respect".

The President, during his speech, raised his voice sufficiently at times to drown the 'Brits Out' shouts of a handful of Republican protestors outside the gates of the cemetery.

The Duke of Kent was also unfazed by the shouting and said he saw the unveiling of the cross as an important step in the continuing process of remembering those who died.

As President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission he hoped such memorials would "continue to inspire successive 
generations to remember and that these memories would be as "perpetual" as the Irish limestone 
from which the memorial was 
made. The common spirit of friendship between the two men was underlined as they shook hands both before and after the wreath laying.

While a whole host of dignataries attended the ceremony, hundreds more gathered in the cemetery to take part.

Conleth O'Shea came in his wheelchair from Rathcoffey in Co Kildare with his wife Josephine to mark the historic occasion.

"It's a sign of peace between the two countries, something for young people to appreciate,"he stressed.

csheehy@herald.ie


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