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Ireland's first Cross of Sacrifice unveiled as UK marks centenary of start of WWI

18 September 2014
The Duke of Kent (left) and the President of Ireland at the unveiling of the Cross of Sacrifice. Photo: Chris Bellew / Copyright: Fennell Photography

The Duke of Kent (left) and the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, at the unveiling of Ireland's first Cross of Sacrifice. It is in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, mounted on a cross of Irish Blue limestone from McKeon Stone's Threecastles Quarry. Photo: Chris Bellew / Copyright: Fennell Photography

Ireland has its first Commonwealth Cross of Sacrifice to its citizens who died after volunteering to fight with the British in the two World Wars.

Made by Mckeon Stone of Irish Blue limestone from the company's Threecastles quarry in Kilkenny, the cross was unveiled in Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery on 31 July in time for the commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany on 4 August 1914.

Hundreds of thousands of Irish people volunteered to fight with the British against the Germans in the two World Wars, but as England went to war with Germany in WWI, Ireland was fighting Britain for its independence and those who fought with the British were seen by some in Ireland as traitors. Glasnevin Cemetery is best known for its memorials to the men who gave their lives in the struggle for Irish independence.

The erection of the Cross of Sacrifice marks an increasing reconciliation between the people of Ireland and Britain and the unveiling of the cross on 31 July was performed jointly by Irish President Michael D Higgins and HRH The Duke of Kent, President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Cross of Sacrifice was commissioned jointly by the Cemetery and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is the same Cross of Sacrifice designed after the First World War by renowned architect Sir Reginald Blomfield that has been erected across the globe, wherever Commonwealth servicemen were laid to rest during and after the two world wars.

As many as 60,000 Irish men and women are believed to have died fighting with the British in World Wars I and II. In 1923 a memorial was erected in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin to 208 First World War casulaties buried there, but it was placed at the back of the cemetery. In 2010 it was repositioned nearer the front of the cemetery.

George McCullough, Chief Executive of the Glasnevin Trust, says the repositioning of the former memorial and the erection of the Commonwealth Cross of Sacrifice represent "a recognition and realisation of exactly what these men sacrificed for this country".

Speaking at the unveiling, The Duke of Kent said: "The Cross of Sacrifice we dedicate today is an important step in the continuing process of recognising and remembering those Irish men and women who died in the two world wars. It represents a lasting tribute to their sacrifice and it is my hope, in the years to come, that memorials such as these continue to inspire successive generations to remember."

Deirdre Mills, the CWGC’s Director of UK Operations, said: "In the year that marks the Centenary of the (start of the) First World War, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is delighted that our joint initiative to erect a Cross of Sacrifice in Glasnevin Cemetery has reached fruition.

"The Cross is an important feature of our work worldwide, commemorating those from both Ireland and throughout the Commonwealth who gave their lives during both World Wars. We are extremely grateful to the Irish Government, public, and the Glasnevin Trust, all of whom have done so much to support our work of commemoration and remembrance in Ireland."

 

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