Throughout Ireland, the National Day of Commemoration, An Lá Comórtha Náisiúnta, took place on Sunday, 09 July 2017. The principal event was held at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin. Events were also held in Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick, Sligo and Galway. The purpose of the commemoration is to remember all those Irish soldiers who lost their lives in war or with the United Nations. The National Day of Commemoration occurs on the Sunday nearest to the 11 July, the anniversary of the date in 1921 when a truce was signed ending the War of Independence.
The first National Day of Commemoration was held on 13 July 1986 in the Garden of Remembrance during which a commemorative plaque was unveiled by President Patrick Hillery. The ceremony was moved to the Royal Hospital in 1987.
The Royal Hospital was built between1680 and 1684 as a hospital for retired soldiers of the British Army. Based on Les Invalides in Paris, it predates the Royal Hospital in Chelsea by two years. It is the oldest neoclassical building in Ireland and was handed over to the Irish Free State in 1922. Since 1991, it is the home of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
The Commemorative Plaque in the Royal Hospital carries the following inscription: “In honour of all those Irishmen and Irishwomen, who died in past wars, or on service with the United Nations”.
The military and religious ceremony in Dublin were held in the presence of the President, the Taoiseach and other members of the Government of Ireland, members of the Oireachtas, the Council of State, the Diplomatic Corps, the Judiciary, the Defence Forces, next-of-kin of those who died on service with the United Nations, Northern Ireland representatives, a wide cross-section of the community, representatives of Regimental Associations and Veterans Associations, and a considerable number of ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen. Members of the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust CLG, with guest, received invitations for the event.
The ceremony commenced at 1100hrs with the arrival of An tUachtarán Michael D. Higgins and the inspection of a Captain’s Guard of Honour, drawn from the three components of the Defence Forces namely the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps.
Representatives of the Islamic Cultural Centre, the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church of Ireland, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish community on Ireland participated in a multi-faith act of Commemoration, each according to their own tradition.
Music interludes were provided by the Ms Sharon Lyons – Sololist, the Army Number 1 Band and Pipers from the School of Music, under the direction of Captain Fergal Carroll.
The President laid a wreath on behalf of the people of Ireland. This was followed by a period of one minute’s silence terminated by the firing of a 25 Pounder Gun Howitzer by the
2 Artillery Regiment. Military honours were rendered by a Cadet Guard of Honour, with instrumentalists from the Army Number 1 Band sounding the Last Post and Reveille.
The ceremony was concluded with the playing of The National Anthem and a fly past flown by PC9s from the Air Corps.
After the ceremony, the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust Ltd hosted a luncheon on behalf of the Department of An Taoiseach. Reinforcing the cross-border nature of the Trust’s activities, attendees included representatives of the Royal Irish Regiment, Combined Disbanded Irish Regiments Association, Royal British Legion, Royal Irish Regiment Association, the Somme Heritage Centre, the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum, the Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers Museum, and the RUC Federation.
View the MHIT Gallery of Images (Lunch) >>
In addressing the attendees, the Trust’s Chairman Brigadier-General Paul Pakenham (Retd) stated, inter alia,
“Today, we recall with gratitude and respect, all Irish Soldiers who were exposed to the hostile and volatile actions that occurred in areas of conflict, including peacekeeping, and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice with courage and conviction.
In particular, we recall those Irish Soldiers who died on 09 July 1917, including:
- Three of the 843 sailors, who perished on board the HMS Vangard, at 2320hrs in Scapa Flow, including Henry Hawkins from Baltinglass – only two of the crew survived
- Eight from the Royal Irish Fusiliers, including 24 year old 2/Lt Dermot Henry 24 from Monaghan
- 8427 Private Hickey, 2 Bn, Irish Guards, and
- Lance Corporal Issac McConnell, Royal Engineers, from Roden Street, Belfast.
No single tradition, narrative or perspective, is diminished by honouring and remembering the extraordinary self-sacrifice and courage of so many Irish Soldiers who died during 1917.
Likewise, we salute the bravery of Commandant Thomas Wickham, an unarmed UN Observer, who was killed in action, 50 years ago, on the Golan Heights, less than 48 hours after the start of the 6 Days War.”