Friday, December 16, 2011

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Launches War Dead Book

The Taoiseach launched Noel French's book The Meath War Dead in Trim last evening. He did the book and the dead proud delivering a speech which acknowledged their sacrifice, the country's lack of appreciation in the past and the plans to have the coming centenaries respectful of all traditions.

He spoke of the pain of the families whose relatives had been killed in the war and of those survivors who returned to a changed Ireland where their sacrifices were not valued or acknowledged.

Things have changed, he said, and spoke of the Irish President and the Queen visiting the Garden of Remembrance and the War Memorial at Islandbridge earlier this year. He promised that the coming centenary celebrations would be inclusive with mutual respect a central element.

(Photo from this website)

This made me wonder about my own book, does it fit the bill? I think so. The first world war looms large in the early part and the contribution and opinions of the non-Catholic population of Sligo are well dealt with, I think. We'll see.

A feature of the Taoiseach's speech was the amount of poetry included - Owen, Ledwidge, Robert Graves. Maybe not what you might expect from a Fine Gael Taoiseach! But then Enda is a west of Ireland man where poetry has always been valued and educated in St Patrick's College, Drumcondra as a primary teacher. So he knew some of the poems by heart, either from teaching them or being taught them.

He quoted from the well known Lament for Thomas McDonagh by Francis Ledwidge but also a verse from his less well-known The Irish in Gallipolli

Neither for lust of glory nor new throne
This thunder and this lightning of our wrath
Waken these frantic echoes, not for these
Our cross with England’s mingle, to be blown
On Mammon’s threshold; we but war when war
Serves Liberty and Justice, Love and Peace.

And finally An Taoiseach mentioned the ending of the war in Iraq and the futility of the "war to end wars" quoting from Robert Graves' poem Armistice Day 1918

When the days of rejoicing are over,
When the flags are stowed safely away,
They will dream of another wild 'War to End Wars'
And another wild Armistice day.

A well organised night, a great speech and an excellent launch for what is the fourth in a series of such volumes on Irish counties by the History Press.

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