Emerald Isle salutes fallen
Published: April 25, 2013 – 3:00AM
On Anzac Day this year, in keeping with tradition, Australians and New Zealanders will commemorate their compatriots who have fallen in war, as they take part in dawn services, marches and processions to honour those who suffered and died at Gallipoli and in all wars before and since.
In Ireland we will remember them, too. In Grangegorman Military Cemetery on Blackhorse Avenue in Dublin – a small, little-known cemetery tucked away near the Phoenix Park – Irish people will maintain this well-established tradition when they gather at dawn. They will lay wreaths and they will honour the dead. Similar commemorative services will take place elsewhere in the country.
The iconic place names around Gallipoli, in France and in Belgium, which became the resting places for many Australian soldiers who fought in World War I, are well known. Less well-known are ones such as Grangegorman where diggers were also laid to rest.
Australian war graves are to be found around Ireland. Australians are commemorated, too, on memorials in Irish towns and villages, often young men from the locality who had emigrated to Australia and lost their lives fighting with the Australian Imperial Force.
Some 6600 Irish-born men and women served in the Australian forces during World War I.
Many of those who served in Australian uniform at Gallipoli were born in Ireland – Henry Stoker from Dublin commanded the Australian submarine which first breached the mined defences of the Dardanelles.
Alongside them, many Irish also fought as part of the British forces. At Lone Pine, where the men of the Connaught Rangers fought beside the Australian 1st Division; at Suvla Bay, where men of the 10th Irish Division landed in August 1915 in support of Australian and New Zealand troops in the Anzac sector.
In total, more than 4000 Irishmen died during the Dardanelles campaign. Their memory was neglected for too long.
Ireland and Australia were both affected profoundly by the Gallipoli campaign, but in very different ways. For Australia, Gallipoli helped define what it means to be Australian. For Ireland, it was one in a series of momentous events that ultimately re-shaped our relations with Britain.
As Ireland set about defining a distinct and independent sense of nationhood, the sacrifice of these Irish men and women did not fit the emerging definition of what it meant to be Irish – and it slowly faded from public memory.
But personal memories were maintained, and the loss endured was felt in cities, towns and farms across Ireland for decades to come.
Their role in our national life was finally acknowledged in 2010 when the then President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, visited the war graves in Gallipoli accompanied by representative groups from Ireland, North and South, to recall all those Irishmen who lost their lives in 1915. Their memory, she said, had been ”put in shoe boxes in the attic because of the vanities of history”.
As we in Ireland recall our losses at Gallipoli, we recall a history shared with Australia. And as we approach the centenary of these momentous events, I hope that we do so in a way that recognises this great bond between our two countries.
In a simple gesture of respect, Irish people stand shoulder to shoulder with their Australian friends whether in Dublin or Darwin, Canberra or Cork, to remember and honour all those who gave their lives in that campaign.
And we recall, too, the many and varied motives that brought young men from opposite sides of the world to a barren peninsula between the Aegean and the Dardanelles. Some answered the call of Empire. Others served, in the words of the Irish war poet, Tom Kettle:
”… not for Crown, nor King nor Emperor –
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret scripture of the poor”.
Today we remember them and we honour them all.
Eamon Gilmore is Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
This story was found at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/emerald-isle-salutes-fallen-20130424-2iex8.html