A new memorial to the men and women from Inishowen who died in the First World War has been unveiled, 93 years after the war’s end. The Inishowen War Memorial, which was created by the Inishowen Friends of Messine, was opened last Sunday afternoon in Fort Dunree. The impressive memorial wall is inscribed with the names of 249 men and women from Inishowen who died during that terrible conflict.
Speaking on behalf of the Friends of Messine, Fearghal O’Boyle said: “They were from every parish in the peninsula and included Catholics and Protestants, Orangemen and Hibernians, hurlers and cricketers, dreamers and adventurers, and those who joined the war because their political and church leaders of the time told them it was the right thing to do.
“For many years the only memorials to these men were behind the closed doors of churches and halls, and many of those who died were never remembered at all, particularly among the nationalist community where any connection to the British army became something you just didn’t talk about.
“Even for those who did publicly remember the dead, they had to put up with the suspicion that they were somehow ‘less Irish’ than the rest of the community. In the words of President Mary McAleese, the memories were put in shoeboxes, and hidden away in attics and under beds for generations.”
Since the opening of the Island of Ireland Peace Tower in Messine in 1998, there has been a growing awareness of Ireland’s involvement in the First World War.
Mr O’Boyle says the people of Inishowen have played an active role in raising that awareness. “
The Inishowen Friends of Messine was formed to both remember the dead, and to use this element of our shared history to build peace and reconciliation between the people of this Island today. The importance of this shared history was underlined during the recent visit of the Queen when both heads of state paid their respects at both the Garden of Remembrance and the Islandbridge Memorial.”
The new memorial was officially opened at 2.30pm by Cllr Dessie Larkin, Chairperson of the Donegal CDB Peace and Reconciliation Partnership who provided the PEACE III funding for a project based at Fort Dunree which included creating the memorial wall. He congratulated the Friends of Messine on their great work in creating this legacy with the help of the Peace III funds. He had been in Derry the day before at the opening of the Peace bridge and this was another important step in the road to mutual understanding and appreciated of our shared histories.
The unveiling was followed by the annual Remembrance Service which has been conducted at Fort Dunree since 2004. This ecumenical prayer service involved clergy from the Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian faiths, the laying of wreaths and bugler Robert Goodman playing The Last Post. Tracey McGrory and Richard Laird also provided music, playing Danny Boy and John Condon on fiddle and guitar.
Fort Dunree has been at the heart of Donegal’s WWI Remembrance activities, hosting exhibitions and workshops, and sending people to Messine as part of a cross-border programme.