Remembrance: Irish tribute to troops who fell in Great War

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The Independent Online
Ireland's Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has backed a plan for Dublin to fund a memorial in Belgium to mark the sacrifices of all Irish troops who died in the First World War. It would be a powerful symbol of reconciliation. Alan Murdoch in Dublin reports.

In a new move to encourage reconciliation with Unionists in Northern Ireland, Dublin has agreed to fund a memorial in Belgium for tens of thousands of Irish troops who died fighting for Britain in the First World War.

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, agreed to support the plan last week when he met members of the Journey of Reconciliation Trust, including the Londonderry community leader and former loyalist activist Glen Barr and the former TD (MP) for Donegal, Paddy Harte, whose constituency includes numerous southern Protestants.

Mr Ahern said the memorial would "not only remember the sacrifices of those from all parts of Ireland and from all political and religious traditions who fought and fell in the war" but would also be "a powerful symbol of reconciliation".

The memorial will be a model of the great megalithic tomb at Newgrange in Co Meath. The Dublin government will provide IRpounds 150,000 for the Soldiers and Sailors' Trust to build the memorial, which will comprise a round tower in the Newgrange style, and a park symbolising the four provinces of Ireland.

The design will see sunlight enter the burial chamber at 11am on 11 November, Armistice Day, marking the moment when the Great War ended. At Newgrange a small opening allows light into the centre of the tomb on 21 December, the shortest day of the year.

The move follows the restoration of Lutyens War Memorial gardens at Inchicore in Dublin, scene of a historic ceremony following the first IRA ceasefire in 1994, when representatives of both Sinn Fein and Ulster Unionists attended a remembrance ceremony.

Apart from its Northern Ireland implications, the move will be also welcomed by a vocal lobby in the Irish Republic which has urged Dublin to pay similar homage to Ireland's Great War dead as to those who died in pursuit of Irish independence. This would recognise the complex position of followers of Westminster nationalist leader John Redmond. He hoped Irish volunteers' support for the Crown in the conflict would encourage the fullest implementation of Home Rule afterwards.

l Following the decision not to wear a poppy at her inauguration tomorrow, the President-elect, Mary McAleese, attendance at yesterday's Armistice Day ecumenical service at St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin was welcomed by the Royal British Legion, which organised the service, and by her predecessor, Mary Robinson, now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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