With the centenary of the First World War approaching, the nations that fought in the war are commemorating the event in different ways, from special museum exhibits, new monuments and services of commemoration. Although the Republic of Ireland didn’t exist at the time, many Irish soldiers fought in the British army during the conflict. Around 200,000 Irishmen fought in the conflict, with over 30,000 casualties.
Irish WW1 Recruitment Poster
Events commemorating the nation’s involvement in WW1 include a centenary commemorative event at the Athy Heritage Centre, with special exhibits of wartime artefacts, contemporary film, lectures on local involvement in the war and a living history display. In Dublin, the Dublin City Archives, together with the Dublin and Irish Collections, are staging a large exhibition of letters and postcards from the Great War. These events will focus in particular on the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, which took part in some of war’s fiercest battles.
Irish National War Memorial Gardens
Another Dublin event will be the unveiling of a “Cross of Sacrifice” at Glasnevin Cemetery. Erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the cross will be an addition to the cemetery’s existing memorial walls, which honour the Irish soldiers who died in the Great War. The unveiling of the Cross will take place on July 31st with both Irish and British representatives participating.
The main events will be in Dublin, only a short ferry journey from Britain, either direct or via Dun Laoghaire, making this an ideal opportunity to learn about a different side of First World War history, while staying within easy reach of home. Travelling by ship is a good way to relax, offering competitive prices for the trip to Ireland, either as a foot passenger or taking over your own car.
For many Irish people, and Dubliners in particular, the war years are associated not only with the European conflict but with Ireland’s struggle for independence from Britain. The Easter Rising of 1916 was a short-lived revolt against British rule that has become a symbol of Irish national history. The Georgian General Post Office Building in O’Connell Street was the centre of the fighting, and is now a must-see for history lovers visiting Dublin.
General Post Office Building in O’Connell Street Dublin
Compared to other countries, Ireland’s commemorations of the Great War will be fairly low-key. Ireland was not a scene of fighting, and some ambivalence remains about the nation’s role in the conflict. However, Ireland’s wartime history is no less interesting for being little-known, and the new centenary exhibits and events will give viewers the chance to see the period from a new perspective.