Bridges should be built over shared suffering of war, Taoiseach says
Leo Varadkar became the first Irish premier to wear a shamrock poppy at the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Enniskillen.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said bridges between the north and south of Ireland should be built over the shared suffering of the First World War.
He adopted the words of Irish nationalist MP Willie Redmond, who died in Flanders in 1917, a major in the British Army fighting for the defence of small nations.
Mr Varadkar envisaged a day when the poppy could lay “side by side” with the Irish shamrock and the lily worn by nationalists to commemorate the Easter Rising.
He became the first Irish premier to wear a shamrock poppy at the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the war memorial at Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh, where he placed a green laurel wreath.
Thirty years ago 12 people attending the same event lost their lives to an IRA blast.
The Taoiseach said: “I am a strong believer that history is something we should understand and remember. History should be our guide, we should never allow it to be our prisoner.
“The dream that I have for Ireland is an Ireland in the future where the poppy, the shamrock and the lily can lie side by side.
“I think it is good to have those kind of dreams.”
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, DUP leader Arlene Foster and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable George Hamilton laid floral wreaths of remembrance at the monument to the fallen.
The Inniskilling Fusiliers based in the town fought on the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915 and later on the Western Front.
War poet Francis Ledwidge was one of the Inniskillings’ most famous soldiers. He died at Passchendaele, an Irish nationalist in a British uniform.
The Taoiseach said: “They came from all backgrounds, from the north and from the south, Catholic and Protestant, and fought for different reasons.
“Some fought for king and country, others fought for the sovereignty of small nations and for Catholic Belgium.”
He quoted Mr Redmond, who wrote home a few days before he died on Flanders’ Field in 1917.
“He said it would be a fine memorial to the men who died if we could, over their graves, build up a bridge between north and south.”
Previous taoiseach Enda Kenny made five consecutive visits to Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday.
An honour to lay a wreath in Enniskillen today in remembrance of all those whose sacrifice allows us to enjoy the freedom and liberty we have today.— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) November 12, 2017
Pic courtesy @TrevorLucyPix pic.twitter.com/OTp03drZYX
Mr Varadkar said the names of Irish who died in the First World War were engraved on the wall of the school he attended in Dublin.
Other identities were etched at his mother’s home town of Dungarvan, Co Waterford.
He also recalled the “innocents” who died in the Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen three decades ago.
“In particular, we remember those who answered that atrocity with forgiveness and led the way for so many of us into the future.”
Gordon Wilson was the father of 20-year-old-nurse Marie Wilson, who died from injuries she suffered in the blast.
Mr Wilson’s response to the attack was to say he would pray for the bombers who took his daughter’s life.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said she was delighted to see Mr Varadkar.
“This has now become a well-established tradition.
“The Taoiseach first came on the 25th anniversary of the Enniskillen bomb and I think it is lovely that that continues every year now and has come to be expected from people in Enniskillen.”