Sacrifice of WW1 dead immortalised at memorial

Almost 100 years after they were lost to their families and their country, half of them never accorded the dignity of a funeral, 1,100 Irish men and women who lost their lives in the first world war were remembered in a ceremony which will ensure their names will never be lost.

The Waterford memorial, a black granite monument with the names of all from the city and county who fell in the first world war etched into the surface, was unveiled yesterday in Dungarvan by chief executive of Goal Barry Andrews; local man Jim Shine, whose three half-brothers were killed in the 1914-1918 conflict; and Matt and Robbie McGrath from Ballinameela, whose great grand-uncle John McGrath was killed at the Somme in 1916.

More than 500 people attended the dedication ceremony beside King John’s Castle, which had representation from the Irish defence forces, the Irish branch of the Royal British Legion, various regimental associations, an Garda Síochána, UN veterans, and local dignitaries.

The idea was the brainchild of local Fine Gael TD John Deasy. He said that half the people on the wall do not have graves.

"In many cases, the families have never seen the names commemorated anywhere," said Mr Deasy. "That really was the motivation for doing this."

Also on the committee, was Mr Shine, 82, whose late father, Col James Shine, had three sons who died in the war — John, 19; Hhughie, 18; and Jim, 26. Col Shine’s wife died shortly after the war, he re-married and had three more sons, including the younger Jim.

"The scale of what was lost in the county amazed me and it just disappeared from public memory and this wasn’t right," he said.

Martina Flynn-Shanahan’s grand-uncle Patrick brown was 17 when he was killed in France in 1916. "i’m very proud to be here and to remember him," said Ms Flynn-Shanahan. "But for him and other men and women on the wall, we wouldn’t have our freedom."

In his oration, Mr Andrews and said the passage of time has afforded us "the depth of perspective" to commemorate these deaths without rancour.

"In particular, peace on our island has afforded us the political maturity to see these deaths for what they were," he said.