The Government will lay a wreath in London on Remembrance Sunday to reflect on the thousands of Irish people who fought and died in the British army, the Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has said.
The service, on November 9 at the Cenotaph, will be led by the Queen and marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
It is not the first time Irish diplomats have attended the annual commemoration of Britain’s war dead, but it is the first time the state has been asked to lay a wreath in honour of Irish soldiers.
Flanagan said the event marks one of many important centenaries in Ireland and Britain’s shared history.
“One hundred years on from the start of the First World War, a war that claimed more Irish lives than any other war, I welcome the invitation for Ireland to take part in this annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph to commemorate all those who died,” he said.
“Our participation in this solemn occasion will be an opportunity to reflect on and remember the thousands of men from the island of Ireland who, for many different reasons, left their homes and families to fight in the First World War and never returned.”
As part of the invitation, the Government has been asked to lay a wreath at future Remembrance Sunday ceremonies at the Cenotaph.
Sajid Javid, UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said the invitation was recognition of the immense contribution and shared sacrifice made by many thousands of Irish men and women in the British army.
“Throughout the First World War, Irish servicemen stood side by side with men and women from across Great Britain and the Commonwealth. As we commemorate the centenary of the start of the war, it is right we remember our nations’ shared sacrifice,” he said.
Some 200,000 Irish-born soldiers served in the First World War, and those fortunate to return home witnessed a country at war with Britain.
Official records of soldiers serving with Irish regiments puts the number of Irish war dead at around 50,000.