THERE could be few more poignant locations for Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s final overseas official duty than next week’s visit to Messines, scene of one of the most resounding battles of the First World War.
The ceremony will mark the centenary of an event which saw, for the first time, the 36th (Ulster) and the 16th (Irish) Divisions fight side by side on the Western Front. The battle opened with the simultaneous explosion of mines which measured as one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever. The night before, the Second Army’s chief of staff laconically told the press: “Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow, but we will certainly change the geography.” When the mines went off in Flanders, they were heard in London.
The battle was a victory, and it is marked with new exhibits at the National Museum in Dublin. It demonstrated that the South and North of Ireland and the English could work together and overcome, qualities which will sorely be needed in the challenges ahead. Enda’s advisers have selected a symbolic finale, and they have chosen wisely.
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