Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

War remembrance stark contrast to 'IRA hunger strike march' to celebrate organisation which bombed Enniskillen service in 1987

A candle is held in front of Belfast City Hall as the building was plunged into darkness to mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War
A candle is held in front of Belfast City Hall as the building was plunged into darkness to mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War

On Monday night I stood with some 200 others at the War Memorial in Dromore to remember the sacrifice of a previous generation.

It was an incredibly effective event with many people bringing candles which were extinguished at 11pm as we recalled the words of Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary in 1914, who famously declared, “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time” on the eve of war.

Doubtless many of those in attendance thought of a family member who paid the supreme sacrifice as we stood in the haunting light of the candles.

In the case of our own family, my wife and I brought our seven-month-old daughter so that we can tell her in years to come that she was with us when we remembered three of her great, great, great uncles who went off to fight for the freedom of Europe. Thankfully – unlike so many others – they all returned home.

As we sang hymns, listened to readings and heard a local band play some tunes of the period adults and children stood in solemn memory of those who gave so much to ensure the liberties which we take for granted today were preserved.

It was the best Remembrance event I have ever attended, a fitting way to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War and something which will live long in the memory of all those who attended it.

Similar events took place throughout the nation as we paused to remember. Of course the focal point was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey – a single grave which is symbolic of so many others.

The quotation on the tomb from the second book of Chronicles beautifully sums up the mood of a grateful nation as well today as it did when the soldier was laid to rest on November 11, 1920 – “They buried him ... among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward God, and toward his house”.

I hesitate even to mention it because it had nothing to do with the dignified events of Monday night but what a contrast with the events in Belfast last week when a loyalist terrorist organisation hijacked a memorial to the dead of the First World War.

What a contrast with events in Derrylin on Sunday when people marched to celebrate an organisation which bombed a Remembrance service in Enniskillen in 1987.

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