Minister Humphreys joins Minister Todeschini for dedication of the France – Ireland Memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery

Minister Humphreys joins Minister Todeschini for dedication of the France – Ireland Memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery

A gift from France to remember the solidarity of the Irish

The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys, TD, and the French Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance at the Ministry of Defence, Jean-Marc Todeschini, will today (Sunday) be dedicating the France – Ireland Memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery, in conjunction with Glasnevin Trust.

The Memorial – a monument created specially by the Beaux-Arts de Paris (Paris Fine Arts School) – is being gifted to the Irish people by France, in recognition of the solidarity and the sacrifice made by so many native of the island of Ireland in the defence and freedom of France, particularly during the First World War. Part of the Memorial is a replica of the original wooden cross (now housed in the War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge in Dublin) built by the men of the 16th Irish Division for the churchyard at Ginchy, following the events there and at Guillemont in September 1916, when 1,200 men from the Division lost their lives.

Speaking today Minister Humphreys said:
“This is a very significant gesture by the Government of France, to gift Ireland with this replica cross which will stand in Glasnevin Cemetery in recognition of the close bound which exists between our two countries. Tens of thousands of Irishmen went to fight on the battlefields of northern France during the First World War, and many of them made the ultimate sacrifice.

“This cross will stand as a symbol of Irish wartime service in France. In September 1916, more than 1,200 from the 16th Irish Division lost their lives and thousands more were injured during heavy fighting at Ginchy and Guillemont. The 16th included men from right across the island of Ireland, meaning that communities in every province were impacted by those events during the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago.

“I travelled to Guillemont in September of this year for a special commemorative event to mark the outbreak of fighting there, and I would like to thank Minister Todeschini for returning to Dublin today for the dedication of this special replica cross. This gesture underlines the legacy of co-operation between Ireland and France and will be deeply appreciated by Irish people, particularly as we commemorate the ending of the Somme campaign.”

Minister Todeschini said:

“This Memorial is a unique work of art, a creation by young artists and sculptors from the Beaux-Arts de Paris, to express not only a message of deep thanks and recognition but also to illustrate the role of youth to shape a better future.

“Forming an integral part of the Memorial, three bronze helmets dedicate the Memorial : « Ce lieu de mémoire est dédié aux Irlandais et aux Irlandaises qui ont combattu pour la Liberté et la Défense de la France lors des guerres de 1870-1871, 1914-1918 et 1939-1945 »[1].

“The Memorial is meant to be a lasting tribute from France and the French people to all Irish from all the island of Ireland and beyond who constantly have expressed their solidarity and their commitment – even unto the supreme sacrifice – to the values and the freedom of France: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.»

Chairman of Glasnevin Trust Mr. John Green said:
The France Ireland memorial, a gift from France to the people of all Ireland, is a unique piece of sculpture which literally erupts out of the ground. It is very definitely a 21st Century memorialization. Its position in Glasnevin Cemetery is significant as thousands of those who served on French soil in the defense of France have found their final resting place here, as have so many from the different strands and traditions in Irish history since 1798. Its unveiling is a hugely symbolic moment in recognising Ireland’s contribution to France and the enduring fraternity of our two nations. It will stand as a reminder to future generations of the mutual experience of France and Ireland, but also of the frightful cost of war.


Note to Editors:

The base of the Cross will be enhanced with the placement of stones quarried from Mc Keown’s quarry in Kilkenny, under the supervision of Patrice Alexandre, renowned sculptor of the École Nationale Superieure des Beaux-arts de Paris, whose students have been engaged in the preparations of this project.

The stones have been inscribed with an extract from the tribute speech given by Marshal Ferdinand Foch Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies during the Great War to the Irish soldiers who died in the First World War, published in The Irish Times on 10 November 1928:

“Some of the flower of Irish chivalry rests in the cemeteries that have been reserved in France, and the French people will always have these reminders of the debt that France owes to Irish valour. We shall always see that the graves of these heroes from across the sea are lovingly tended, and we shall try to ensure that the generations that come after us shall never forget the heroic dead of Ireland.”

[1] “This place of memory is dedicated to the Irish men and women who fought for the freedom and defence of France during the wars of 1870-71, 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.”

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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