UK and Irish government ministers will today jointly lay the foundation stone of a new monument in Dublin to commemorate soldiers from all over Ireland who lost their lives in the two world wars.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will accompany the Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan at the ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetery.
The monumental Cross of Sacrifice is being erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, with support from the Irish government, to mark the centenary of the First World War.
It will commemorate the sacrifice of all Irish soldiers who lost their lives in both world wars.
In recent years, as Anglo-Irish relations have markedly improved, there has been a growing acknowledgement in the Republic of the contribution its citizens made fighting in the British Army during the First World War – just before independence.
An official apology from the Irish government has also been issued to those thousands of soldiers who deserted its neutral forces during the Second World War to fight for Britain against Nazi Germany, and were effectively ostracised by the state on their return.
The latest event in Glasnevin forms part of a wider programme of ceremonies attended by UK and Irish ministers to mark the war’s centenary and the associated decade of commemorations in Ireland, when events such as the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin against British rule will also be marked.
Ms Villiers said it was a “great honour” to lay the foundation stone for the new Cross of Sacrifice.
“I can think of no better setting for a memorial to remember the tens of thousands of Irishmen who made the ultimate sacrifice during the world wars,” she said.
“The choice of Glasnevin for this monument, as with the other Crosses of Sacrifice throughout the world, is very much in keeping with what the design symbolises: the Cross representing the faith of the majority of the dead, and the sword representing the military character of the cemetery.
“Soon people from both Northern and Southern Ireland will have a place to come together in quiet contemplation to pay tribute to the memory of those, from across the whole island of Ireland, who gave so much for our freedom.”
During her visit to Dublin, the Northern Ireland Secretary will also meet with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore to discuss recent political developments north of the border and attend an address by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly.