Michael D Higgins: Armistice commemorations 'a simple recognition of our common humanity'

Michael D Higgins: Armistice commemorations 'a simple recognition of our common humanity'
Michael D Higgins lays a wreath at Glasnevin cemetery. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Latest: President-elect Michael D Higgins has said Irish people have discovered a greater insight into the experience of those who fought in World War One.

In a speech at the State Commemoration Ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, he told those in attendance that we have a greater understanding of the motivation of those who enlisted in the war effort.

Mr Higgins paid tribute to those who fought in the First World War, in particular, the 200,000 Irish men who served and those who died overseas.

"Ours is not a celebration of militarism, nor a valorisation of martial spirit, but a simple recognition of our common humanity, as we recall the destruction of the promise and potential of a generation in the First World War, the lasting damage inflicted on the millions wounded and maimed, and the countless others who would go on to suffer mental anguish as a result of the horrors of their war experience," he said.

"Despite all the differences of religion, class and political aspiration, they were united by what would be a shared experience of war, with its comradeship, friendship and shared hardship whether it was on the Western Front, at Gallipoli, or in the Middle East."

Mr Higgins added that the world today had “the material capacity to abolish all forms of human poverty, to alleviate all unnecessary suffering, we are still devoting so much of our creativity, not to the preservation or achievement of peace, but to the prosecution of and preparation for war”.

“Amidst great human suffering, some nations now seek to embark upon a new arms race, increasing not only their own stockpiles, but exporting weapons of death and destruction to fuel the fires of war in other lands, in Yemen, in Syria, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said.

Vice Admiral Mark Mellett (left), chief of staff of the Irish Defence Forces, with President-elect Michael D Higgins at Glasnevin Cemetery (Niall Carson/PA)
Vice Admiral Mark Mellett (left), chief of staff of the Irish Defence Forces, with President-elect Michael D Higgins at Glasnevin Cemetery (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Higgins, and his wife Sabina, along with Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan paid tribute to the memory of the Irish men and women who died in the First World War.

Over 47 countries were represented at the service, and officials laid wreaths at the Irish military plot, before The Last Post was played and the Irish flag returned to full mast.

Poetry from the First World War was read by the British, French and German ambassadors to Ireland, before prayer and a minute of silence.

[media=bbw]3206880[/media

The civil ceremony at the Cenotaph on the South Mall, Cork to mark Armistice Day and the centenary of the end of WW1. Video by Dan Linehan

Those present included current and former Defence Forces troops, former president Mary Robinson and family members of some of those who served in both World Wars.

During the ceremony, five Victoria Cross Commemorative plaques were unveiled, dedicated to five soldiers from different ranks who showed extreme bravery during the conflict between 1914 and 1918.

Minister Madigan reflected on those who had perished in the conflict, and the lost potential of those who served.

“Over the past four years, we have explored, with respect and compassion, the differing motivations of those from this island, of all traditions, who lost their lives – we will never know how they would have contributed to this land, had they not died before their time,” she said.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest acts of Remembrance in Northern Ireland took place at the cenotaph at Belfast City Hall.

It was attended by Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Tanaiste Simon Coveney.

Representatives of all the main churches were present, as well as the armed forces and PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin.

Sinn Fein's Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey did not attend the event.

A party spokesman said that its representatives will not take part in events which "celebrate or attempt to legitimise British imperialism".

In Enniskillen Co Fermanagh, DUP leader Arlene Foster and Minister Heather Humphreys laid wreaths during a remembrance ceremony.

Armistice Day: Memorial events to mark centenary of the end of World War 1

Memorial events will be held across the world today to mark the centenary of the end of World War 1.

This day 100 years ago, the guns fell silent following what was one of the bloodiest wars in history.

Headstones in the graveyard at the Thiepval Memorial in Authuille, France. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Headstones in the graveyard at the Thiepval Memorial in Authuille, France. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The war to end all wars lasted for four years and left millions dead, including many Irish who joined the British Army in the conflict.

More than 60 heads of state will be in Paris today for memorial events to mark the signing of the armistice, including US President Donald Trump and Canadian President Justin Trudeau.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will also be at the Arc de Triomphe where he will be representing the state.

Here at home, the inauguration of President-elect Michael D Higgins for a second term has been delayed for a number of hours to allow him to attend a Remembrance Ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery.

He will be joined by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan.

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney will represent the State at commemorations in Belfast while Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, will attend commemorations in Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh.

In London, Big Ben will sound 11 times at 11am, and 11 times at 12.30pm, in time with bells across the UK and worldwide.

Justice Minister Charles Flanagan will be representing the State at a Service at Westminster Abbey where the Queen and members of the Royal Family will also be in attendance.

She will also lay flowers on the grave of the unknown soldier and Prince Charles will lay a wreath on her behalf at the Cenotaph memorial.

Meanwhile, the Irish Anti-War Movement will hold a dignified vigil at the entrance to the Irish National War Memorial in Island Bridge in Dublin this morning.

It is to coincide with the World War 1 Armistice People's Remembrance organised by the Royal British Legion that is taking place in the Memorial Gardens.

Organisers are encouraging people who attend to wear white poppies as a symbol of peace.

Digital Desk

More on this topic

Irish soldiers who served in First World War honoured in DublinIrish soldiers who served in First World War honoured in Dublin

Young British soldiers killed in First World War buried in France more than 100 years onYoung British soldiers killed in First World War buried in France more than 100 years on

Flanders Fields Memorial inaugurated in DublinFlanders Fields Memorial inaugurated in Dublin

UK envoy ‘regrets’ 1919 Amritsar massacre by British forcesUK envoy ‘regrets’ 1919 Amritsar massacre by British forces


More in this Section

ITAA CEO claims Ireland's regional airports 'are being decimated'ITAA CEO claims Ireland's regional airports 'are being decimated'

Seamus Mallon dies aged 83Seamus Mallon dies aged 83

Luas passenger injured when taxi collided with tram awarded €80kLuas passenger injured when taxi collided with tram awarded €80k

Revenue seize €59k of KHAT in LaoisRevenue seize €59k of KHAT in Laois


Lifestyle

IT IS movie award season and Irish designers and their luxury creations were the stars of the silver screen this week.From red carpet to luxe rugs: Ireland's designers get movie-star treatment

Falsies don’t have to be fiddly, says Katie Wright.5 common myths about false lashes

Hiring professional designers to guide you through a home revamp can get you what you want, which doesn’t necessarily have to be what TV home improvement shows tell us, writes Carol O’Callaghan.What a professional interior designer can do for you when planning a home revamp

Kya deLongchamps turns the spotlight on countertop stars to look out for in the last throes of the January sales.Counter culture: Some star kitchen appliance buys

More From The Irish Examiner