Throughout Ireland, the National Day of Commemoration, An Lá Comórtha Náisiúnta, took place on Sunday 13 July 2014. The principal event was held at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin. Events were also held in Cork, Limerick 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.
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 ceremonies 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, 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.
The ceremonies commenced at 1100hrs with the arrival of An tUachtarán Michael D. Higgins and the inspection of the Presidential Guard of Honour, drawn from the 27 Infantry Battalion, under the command of Captain Peter Kelleher.
Representatives of the various Faith Traditions in Ireland participated in a multi-faith commemoration. Music interludes were provided by Ms Colette Delahunt and the Band of the 1 Brigade under the baton of Captain Brian Prendergast.
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 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 PC9s from the Air Corps.
After the ceremony, the Military Heritage of Ireland Trust hosted a luncheon. Reinforcing the cross-border nature of the Trust’s activities, attendees included representatives of the National Museum of Ireland, Combined Disbanded Regiments Association, Royal Irish Regiment Museum, the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum, the Royal Enniskilling Fusiliers Museum, and the RUC Federation.
In addressing the attendees, the Chairman Brigadier-General Paul Pakenham (Retd) stated, inter alia, “Today, we recall with fondness and respect, all Irish Soldiers who were exposed to the hostile and volatile events that occurred in areas of conflict, including peacekeeping, and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice. They include the son of Percy and Alice Ainsworth, and husband of Daphnia, from Blessington Co Wicklow, Major Charles James Ainsworth, Royal Artillery, 39 years of age, one of the 130 personnel Killed in Action, on Thursday 13 July, 70 years ago today in Normandy”.
The Chair also paid tribute to Sir John Reginald Gorman CVO CBE MC, who died in May and who was a founder member of the Trust – RIP.