Island of Ireland Peace Park

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Island of Ireland Peace Park
Belgium
Tower, Irish Peace Park, Mesen, Belgium.jpg
The Peace Park's symbolic Irish Round Tower.
For the soldiers of the island of Ireland who died, were wounded or are missing from World War I
Unveiled November 11, 1998 (1998-11-11)
Location 50°45′35.28″N 2°53′41.13″E / 50.7598000°N 2.8947583°E / 50.7598000; 2.8947583
near Mesen, West Flanders, Belgium
Designed by Traditional Irish round tower

The Island of Ireland Peace Park and its surrounding park (Irish: Páirc Síochána d'Oileán na h'Éireann), also called the Irish Peace Park or Irish Peace Tower in Messines, near Ypres in Flanders, Belgium, is a war memorial to the soldiers of the island of Ireland who died, were wounded or are missing from World War I, during Ireland's involvement in the conflict. The tower memorial is close to the site of the June 1917 battle for the Messines Ridge and was chosen because that battle witnessed one of the few where Irishmen, regardless of religion, fought side by side against a common enemy.[1]

Development[edit]

Because of the events of the Easter Rebellion in 1916 and the partition of Ireland under the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922 and the Irish Civil War that followed it, little was done in the Republic of Ireland to commemorate the Irish dead from the Great War or World War II. Those countries who were engaged in the Great War all preserve the memory of their fallen soldiers with national monuments in the Western Front area. This led to some ill-feeling in the already crowded emotions of the conflict on the island, and perhaps was highlighted when Northern Ireland's community's Ulster Tower Thiepval in France was one of the first memorials erected.[2]

This Tower memorial, however, serves not to "redress the balance" but rather to recall the sacrifices of those from the island of Ireland from all political and religious traditions who fought and died in the war.[citation needed] It also serves as a symbol of modern-day reconciliation. The Tower houses bronze cubicles containing record books listing the known dead, which are publicly accessible copies of the originals belonging to the National War Memorial, Islandbridge, Dublin.

The project was initiated by A Journey of Reconciliation Trust, a broad-based cross-border Irish organisation which hopes to bring together people of diverse beliefs. The Trust comprises representatives of the main churches in Ireland and professional political and representatives and community leaders from both parts of Ireland under the leadership of Paddy Harte and Glenn Barr.[3]

The building of the tower was marked by conflict over who would pay what towards the costs of construction.[4] Construction costs were finally met by contributions from the British and Irish governments and from commercial sponsors[3] but some problems with drainage, tree growth and surfacing in the park around the tower existed for the first few years. The park was subsequently restructured to its present design under the auspices of the Dublin City Council in 2004.

Design[edit]

The counties of Ireland,
symbolically run together.

The 110-foot (34 m) tower[5] is in the traditional design of an Irish round tower and is partially built with stone from a former British Army barracks in Tipperary, the remainder of the stone from a work-house outside Mullingar, County Westmeath.

The design has a unique aspect that allows the sun to light the interior only on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the anniversary of the armistice that ended the war and the time for the minute's silence on Remembrance Day.[1]

A commemorative ceremony is held yearly in the park on that date, in conjunction with similar ceremonies at the nearby multi-national Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres.

Unveiling[edit]

The tower was unveiled after an 11 am service on 11 November 1998 by President Mary McAleese of Ireland, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and King Albert II of Belgium.

In her speech, President McAleese said:

Speaking at the official re-opening of the newly structured park on 7 June 2004, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern commented that honouring the spirit of all Irish people killed in the First World War can teach how to advance the Northern Ireland peace process, adding:

Peace Pledge plaque,
in the park's centre circle.

Peace Pledge[edit]

A bronze tablet on a granite pillar positioned in the centre circle of the park bears the following inscription, entitled:

Peace Pledge

The park[edit]

The three pillars giving the killed,
wounded and missing of the
three voluntary Irish Divisions.
Plaque commemorating the opening and dedication of the park.
Plaque overview of the Battle of Messines.
  • Inside the entrance gate on the left are four granite pillars with plaques in four languages (Irish, English, Dutch and French), commemorating the dedication and opening and dedication of the park on 11 November 1998.
  • The park surrounding the round tower contains thirteen smaller stone structures:
  • There are three pillars giving the killed, wounded and missing of each division
*36th (Ulster) Division – 32,186
*10th (Irish) Division – 9,363
*16th (Irish) Division – 28,398
  • An upright tablet listing the counties of Ireland, the names flowing together to suggest the unity of death
  • A bronze tablet depicting a plan of the battle area
  • Nine stone tablets with prose, poems and letters from Irish servicemen

Messines Peace Village[edit]

The completion of the Peace Park ultimately led to the development and construction of the Messines Peace Village, an international rural hostel equipped for seminars and meetings, ideal for associations, companies, youth and school groups.

The first stone was placed on 7 June 2005 by Taoiseach na hÉireann (Prime Minister of Ireland) Bertie Ahern in the presence of the Mayor of Messines, Sandy Evrard and the Flemish Minister of Administrative Affairs, Foreign Policy, Media and Tourism, Geert Bourgeois.

Only one year later, the Peace Village was officially opened. The inauguration took place on 7 June 2006 by the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, the British Minister for Northern Ireland, David Hanson, the Flemish Minister of Administrative Affairs, Foreign Policy, Media and Tourism, Geert Bourgeois and Sandy Evrard, the Mayor of Messines.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BBC News, 11 November 1998
  2. ^ Webmatters.net undated
  3. ^ a b Republic of Ireland Department for Foreign Affairs, 20 October 1998
  4. ^ Ypres and the Great War by Simon Farr
  5. ^ World of Hibernia December 1998, quoted in Find Articles
  6. ^ Irish President's website
  7. ^ The Irish Times, pg. 11 8 June 2006

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bryan Cooper (1918): The 10th (Irish) Division in Gallipoli, Irish Academic Press (1993), (2003) ISBN 0-7165-2517-8.
  • Cyril Falls: History of the 36th (Ulster) Division, Constable & Robinson (1996) ISBN 0-09-476630-4.
  • Desmond & Jean Bowen: Heroic Option: The Irish in the British Army, Pen & Sword Books (2005) ISBN 1-84415-152-2.
  • Keith Jeffery: Ireland and the Great War, Cambridge University Press, (November 2000) ISBN 0-521-77323-7.
  • Terence Denman: Ireland's unknown Soldiers: The 16th (Irish) Division in the Great War, Irish Academic Press (1992), (2003) ISBN 0-7165-2495-3.
  • Timothy Bowman: Irish Regiments in the Great War, Manchester University Press (2003), ISBN 0-7190-6285-3.
  • David Murphy: Irish Regiments in the World Wars, Osprey Publishing (2007), ISBN 978-1-84603-015-4
  • David Murphy: The Irish Brigades, 1685-2006, A gazetteer of Irish Military Service past and present, Four Courts Press (2007)
    The Military Heritage of Ireland Trust. ISBN 978-1-84682-080-9
  • Stephen Walker: Forgotten Soldiers; The Irishmen shot at dawn, Gill & Nacmillan (2007), ISBN 978-0-7171-4182-1
  • John Horne ed.: Our War 'Ireland and the Great War': The Thomas Davis Lectures, The Royal Irish Academy, Dublin (2008) ISBN 978-1-904890-50-8