A circuit court judge in Donegal has paid moving tribute to Ireland’s soldiers who lost their lives as a result of war.
At a recent circuit court sitting in Donegal Town, Judge John O’Hagan said he wanted to do something he does every year at this time and remember the country’s fallen soldiers.
This act of respect is all the more significant this year, given that it is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. An estimated 49,000 Irish men and women died in this conflict but their sacrifice was never publicly acknowledged until recent years.
Judge O’Hagan praised the accomplishments of Donegal man Paddy Harte “who did huge work in bringing about a situation where people who fell inthe First World War who were Irish will be remembered.” He said the garden of remembrance near the site of the battle of the Somme was “a great credit to Ireland”.
There was complete silence in the courtroom as the judge quoted from two poems written by Patrick MacGill of Glenties, who himself fought in WWI.
The first was Death and the Fairies.
Before I joined the army, I lived in Donegal,
Where every night the fairies, would hold their carnival.
But now I’m out in Flanders, where men like wheat-ears fall,
And it’s death and not the fairies who is holding carnival.
The second was Letters in the Trenches.
We’ll write to her tomorrow and this is what we’ll say:
He breathed her name in dying; in peace he passed away:
No words about his moaning, his anguish and his pain,
When slowly, slowly dying – God! Fifteen hours in dying!
He lay all maimed and dying, alone upon the plain.
The poem, he said “draws up memories of what an awful experience it must have been”.
He then recited the famous stanza from Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
“All soldiers are the same,” the judge noted. “The colour of their uniform doesn’t matter.”
He then, as a nearby church bell tolled to mark 11 o’clock, asked everyone to stand for a moment’s silence in honour of all fallen soldiers.