Leo Varadkar dreams of poppy, lily and shamrock side by side
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.
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 an Ireland, is an Ireland in the future where the poppy, the shamrock and the lily can lie side by side.”
The Inniskilling Fusiliers based in Enniskillen 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.
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 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.
Mr Varadkar said his predecessor advised him to continue the tradition.
“I can really understand why he did so.”
He 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.
“They never came home.”
He 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.”
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.”
Secretary of State Brokenshire said it was a privilege to be in the lakeland town.