Throughout Ireland, the National Day of Commemoration, An Lá Comórtha Náisiúnta, took place on Sunday, 09 July 2023. This year, the principal event was held at Collins Barracks Cork, rather than the Royal Hospital Kilmainham or Collins Barracks Dublin. Events were also held in Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, and Sligo. The purpose of the National Day of Commemoration is to remember all those Irish soldiers who lost their lives in past wars 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 Kilmainham in 1987. Due to structural renovations, the 2018, 2019 and 2022 events were moved from Kilmainham to Collins Barracks, Dublin.
Overlooking the city of Cork, constructed in the townland of Rath Mór between 1801 and 1806, Collins Barracks was originally called The Barracks, and renamed Victoria Barracks in honour of the visit of Queen Victoria to Cork on 02 August 1849. Following the War of Independence, the Barracks was handed over to the Free State Army on 18 May 1922, and later renamed Collins Barracks in honour of General Michael Collins. Currently, HQ 1 Brigade and some of the Brigade’s units are garrisoned in Collins Barracks, Cork.
The military and religious ceremony in Collins Barracks Cork was 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, An Garda Síochána, the next-of-kin of those who died on service with the United Nations, relatives of the 1916 Leaders, Northern Ireland representatives, a wide cross-section of the community, representatives of a range of Representation Associations and Veterans Associations including RACO, PDFORRA, RDFRA, ARCO, ONE. IUNVA and RBL, and a significant number of Defence Forces Veterans. The Chairman of the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust, Brigadier-General Paul Fry (Retd) led the Trust’s representation at the ceremony.
The Commemorative Plaque 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 ceremony commenced at 1400hrs with the Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Seán Clancy and GOC 1 Brigade Brigadier-General Brian Cleary. formally welcoming An tUachtarán Michael D. Higgins to Collins Barracks Cork. President Higgins then inspected a Captain’s Guard of Honour under the command of Captain Joe Everett, 1 Brigade Artillery Regiment, which was drawn from the three components of the Defence Forces namely the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps. The Parade Commander was Lieutenant-Colonel Paul O’Sullivan, HQ 1 Brigade.
Representatives of Faith, Belief and the Broader Community: the Islamic Cultural Centre, the Jewish Council of Ireland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Methodist Church of Ireland, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, the Vedic Hindu Cultural Centre, the Irish Buddhist Union, and the Humanist Association of Ireland, participated in a multi-faith act of Commemoration, each according to their own tradition.
Private Seán Rooney, who was killed while on peacekeeping duties in South Lebanon last December, was remembered by the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Fintan Gavin during his prayers. An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD later stated that “This year’s National Day of Commemoration is particular poignant because it comes after the sad death of Private Seán Rooney in Lebanon. It reminds us that this isn’t about the past, it’s also about the present.”
The musical programme played by the Band of the 1 Brigade, under the direction of Captain Ben Jacob included The Water is Wide, Nimrod, Caoineadh, Brón Ceremonial March and Kol Nidre. Accompanied by the Band of 1 Brigade, Company Sergeant Kevin Dunkan, Chief Pipe Instructor, Defence Forces School of Music, played Flowers of the Forrest.
Music interludes were provided by Ms Gemma Ní Bhriain– Soloist, accompanied by the Band of 1 Brigade, and included Be Thou My Vision and The Lark in the Clear Air.
The Cadet Honour Guard, drawn from the 99 Cadet Class was under the command of Captain Shane McEntee. The Flag Officer was Commandant James O’Neill, HQ 1 Brigade.
The Commemorative Plaque 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 President laid a wreath on behalf of the people of Ireland at the Commemorative Plaque. This was followed by a period of one minute’s silence terminated by the firing of a 25 Pounder Gun Howitzer deployed by the 1 Brigade Artillery Regiment. Military honours were rendered by the Cadet Guard of Honour, with instrumentalists from the Band of 1 Brigade sounding the Last Post and Reveille.
The ceremony was concluded with the playing of The National Anthem and a fly past flown by four PC9s in formation from the Air Corps.
Photographs courtesy of Airman Gibney, Defence Forces Public Relations Branch.