Minister Heather Humphreys Remarks at Dublin Castle reception Sunday April 26th 5p.m. 2015
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to welcome you all here today following the service of remembrance for Gallipoli in Christchurch Cathedral.
The service acknowledged the sacrifice made by our ancestors in the Gallipoli campaign and marks the end of a moving series of commemorative events here in Ireland, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere – and of course in Turkey itself where Ireland was represented by President Higgins.
I know many of you will have been at the dawn ceremony yesterday in Grangegorman Military Ceremony and at the ceremonies on Glasnevin to commemorate those who fought and died in that horrific campaign.
Taken together these events have raised the profile of the terrible events of the Gallipoli Campaign within Ireland and their importance in our collective national story.
They have brought home to us in Ireland the formative role that Gallipoli played in the building of the new nations of Australia and New Zealand, while making us aware of the large numbers of Irish soldiers who fought and died in British and ANZAC uniforms.
While Gallipoli has long resonated in Australian and New Zealand hearts, Ireland’s role did not – except perhaps in the line from the Foggy Dewthat it was “better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sud El Bar”.
Things have changed much in recent years, when Queen and President can now pay tribute together in commemoration of those who both fought for – and fought against – the Crown during this troubled period.
The Decade of Commemoration gives us an opportunity to increase our knowledge and understanding of all the happenings of that time.
This week will have done much to bring light into this dark episode in Irish and world history.
The RTÉ documentary on Tuesday night was a powerful reminder of the campaign and Ireland’s part within it.
This documentary is complemented by the new Gallipoli website which I launched on Thursday as part of the Century Ireland website, a joint project of Boston College and RTE which is supported by my Department.
The website will be a great resource for anyone who wants to understand the Eastern theatre of conflict during World War 1.
The campaign in Gallipoli included many Irish soldiers in Irish Regiments in the British Army, as well as many in the ANZAC forces.
They included sailors, nurses and other medical workers.
Three granddaughters of the great Daniel O’Connell nursed at Gallipoli.
Three Irish regiments of the British Army were involved at the beginning of the campaign in April 1915.
They were among the first to try to storm the beaches and to suffer 1,000 casualties in just four days.
The exuberance, excitement, horror and aftermath of their experience at Gallipoli has been re-imagined, as many of you may have seen, through the PALS immersive and very moving dramatisation at Collins Barracks.
This drama, inspired by the National Museum and National Archives, with the assistance of my Department, has helped bring understanding of some of the experience endured by those affected by the war.
This was all the more moving when you consider that Collins Barracks – formerly the Royal Barracks – was a place of training and a point of departure for many thousands who left for Gallipoli.
As I said earlier in the week, the stories of those who fought in this campaign were often not told, or were forgotten for reasons perhaps of politics, but sometimes because those involved did not want to relive, or remember, the horror itself.
From the distance of a hundred years it is not too late to recount these stories now.
Even as the World War continued, it was realised that the terrible legacy would require special new arrangements for the welfare of soldiers and the remembrance of the dead.
The founding of the forerunner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1917 and the Royal British Legion in 1921 were the beginning of a continuing acknowledgement of service and loss in war.
Since their foundation, these two institutions have provided their support to all British service personnel including many thousands from Ireland.
They deserve our thanks.
Over the past year, European nations have come together to remember the horror that divided them.
Partnerships that rise above narrow traditions and transcend the divisions of the past will contribute to a better future for us all.
Thomas Kettle, the former Nationalist MP for East Tyrone who served and was killed as a Lieutenant in the 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, believed that:
“Used with the wisdom which is sown in tears and blood, this tragedy of Europe may be and must be the prologue to the two reconciliations of which all statesmen have dreamed, the reconciliation of Protestant Ulster with Ireland, and the reconciliation of Ireland with Great Britain.”
I would like to finished by offering my thanks to all involved in the preparation of this reception and, on behalf of the Government, I invite you to enjoy the refreshments.
Go raibh maith agaibh.