Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Cavan/Monaghan T.D. Heather Humphreys has had a very busy diary of engagements since her appointment to the Cabinet just less than twelve months ago. Yesterday she was with An Taoiseach launching the new online search facility for genealogists at the National Library, where old Catholic parish registers that were on microfilm have been digitised.
Today Minister Humphreys attended the Royal British Legion’s annual ceremony at the National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge in Dublin. She read a lesson and also laid a laurel wreath. Tomorrow there will be a national day of commemoration at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham at 11am. Speaking ahead of the ceremony the Minister said: Speaking ahead of the ceremony Minister Humphreys said:
“This ceremony remembers the Irish men and women who died during the two world wars. Just last week I travelled to the Somme to mark the 99th anniversary of what was the bloodiest battle of World War One, claiming thousands of Irish lives.
“Through the World War One commemorative events, we have gained a much greater understanding of the scale of Irish sacrifice and suffering. Families have, for the first time, discovered that their relatives went to the Front to fight, and many of them never returned home.
“One hundred years on, Ireland is respectfully remembering its sons and daughters who served in what was a horrific conflict. Events such as this one help us not only to pay respect to those who died, but also to recognise how far we have come over the last century.”
In the Irish Times, Marie O’Halloran reports as follows:
“The Sinn Féin Lord Mayors of Dublin and Belfast and the Sinn Féin Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly have laid wreaths at a ceremony in Dublin to commemorate the dead of the first and second World Wars. Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys led the wreathlaying at a ceremony organised by the Royal British Legion in Ireland at the National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge, Dublin. Members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, along with members of the Defence Forces, attended the annual commemoration, which was first held in 2006 to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. It is now held on an annual basis on the Saturday before the National Day of Commemoration.
Ms Humphreys laid a laurel wreath at the cenotaph, as did newly elected Dublin Lord Mayor Cllr Críona Ní Dhálaigh and Lord Mayor of Belfast Cllr Arder Carson. Poppy wreath Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett laid a poppy wreath, while Speaker of the Assembly Mitchel McLaughlin laid a laurel wreath. Poppy and laurel wreaths were laid by representatives of the diplomatic corps and others from a number of states including the Vatican, Japan, Republic of Cyprus, the UK, the Russian Federation, Netherlands, Australia, India, France, Nigeria, Lithuania, Germany, the US and Kenya. In all more than 100 wreaths were laid during the ceremony, introduced by Lt Col Ken Martin, chairman of the Royal British Legion in the south.
He told almost 1,000 people in attendance that they were in a “garden of exquisite beauty” in the centre “of what can only be described as the finest national memorial to the sacrifice of a nation, in Europe”. They were there, he said, to remember the sacrifice for the defence of small nations. Archdeacon of Ferns Christopher Long said that every war was cruel, but the first World War “was unlike any other unspeakable carnage, the unbearable loss, the almost unbelievable bravery”. He said it was a conflict that spread from the western front to the deserts of the Mediterranean, from the plains of Poland to the frozen mountains of Austria, touching and ending millions of lives. Dismissed as ‘pointless war’ “Too often it is dismissed as a pointless war, wrought by people who didn’t know why they were fighting. I believe that to be wrong. Men signed up to prevent the domination of a continent, to preserve the principle of freedom that we cherish today.” He added that “we should never fail to cherish peace in our country, and never underestimate the patient work it has taken to build and to maintain that peace”.
Members of the Royal British Legion paraded at the start of the ceremony to the accompaniment of the Army No 1 Band, and during the ceremony as the wreaths were laid the band was accompanied by the Tramore Ladies Choir. The lament ‘Oft in the Stilly Night’ was played as wreaths were laid at the memorial. Ms Humphreys read a lesson during the ecumenical ceremony.
Head chaplain of the Defence Forces, Msgr Eoin Thynne read the bidding prayers for all those who suffered as a result of conflict. He prayed “for peacemakers and peacekeepers who seek to keep this world secure and free”. Minute’s silence The Last Post was played and president of the Royal British Legion in the south Major Gen The O’Morchoe read the exhortation: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.” A minute’s silence was observed and the Reveille played and the dedication then read: “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today.”
Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Ms Humphreys said: “So many thousands of Irish men lost their lives in the first World War…It didn’t matter whether they were unionist or nationalist, it didn’t matter whether they were Protestant or Catholic the bombs and the bullets of war treated them all the same. So it’s nice that we’re all here today to remember those who lost their lives in the first World War.”