Rathcoole visitors pay Somme tribute in Dublin
A group of men from Rathcoole travelled to Dublin earlier this month to pay their respects to the Irish soldiers who lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme.
The visit by Rathcoole Friends of the Somme took place on Saturday, March 12, and included a cultural field visit to Ireland’s capital to see historical sites and places of interest.
Twenty-eight men from Newtownabbey took part in the project, which included a session about Irish history.
Phil Hamilton, community development officer from Community Support Development Partnership, said: “For some of the participants it was their first time across the border. It was very educational to see and learn our shared history.
“To move forward into a peaceful society we all must understand and respect each other’s identity and this was achieved by this project.
“Learning in workshops is one thing but to view the sites means you can relate to the learning and get a better understanding. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our funders, Don O’Donnell, the tour guide and facilitator, and Rathcoole Friends of the Somme for participating.”
During the visit the men held a short memorial service in memory of all the men in Ireland who lost their life during the Great War. At the time there were high expectations that the Battle of the Somme would be the major victory that would bring the carnage of the First World War to an end.
Beginning on July 1, 1916, the first day of battle was etched into the memories of communities across Ulster by the 5,500 casualty list of the 36th Ulster Division.
The fighting petered out in November the same year — having accrued the final death tally of soldiers on both sides of the conflict of more than one million.
Among the dead were over 3,500 Irish soldiers, with many more wounded.
This large loss of life was made even more horrendous by its occurrence within the short space of the first day of the battle and during two days in the following September.
On the visit, the group also visited the Irish Memorial Park at Island Bridge, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin's garden of remembrance, which is dedicated to those who died for Irish freedom, as well as a Commonwealth Cemetery for British soldiers in Dublin.
They also visited the Grave of Michael Collins and other Irish personalities who helped shape Irish history.
The project was funded by Newtownabbey Borough Council, Intercom and Community Support and Development Partnership, a project funded by the Big Lottery reaching communities programme.