LEADERS of state in the Irish Republic took part in the main commemoration service on Sunday for soldiers who died in both world wars. The Taoiseach, Dr Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, crossed the border to lay a wreath at the cenotaph at Enniskillen, where, 32 years ago, the IRA bomb planted at the site killed 12 people, including Ronnie Hill, who died in December 2000, after being in a coma for 13 years.
Afterwards, Dr Varadkar accompanied the DUP leader Arlene Foster to a Remembrance service led by Dean Kenneth Hall in St Macartin’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in the town. The Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Simon Coveney, attended a ceremony at the cenotaph in Belfast.
At St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, which is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland for both jurisdictions, President Michael D. Higgins attended with his wife, Sabina, and laid a wreath in the north transept with the President of the Royal British Legion (Republic of Ireland branch) Ireland, Lt. Col. Ken Martin. The service was led by the Dean, the Very Revd William Morton, and the Archbishop of Dublin presided. The lessons were read by the Polish ambassador, Anna Sochanska, and the British ambassador, Robin Barnett.
In his sermon, Canon David Oxley, a Prebendary of St Patrick’s Cathedral, referred to the fledgling Irish State at the time of the Second World War, and the political circumstances that led to a policy of neutrality. But he went on to say that many individual Irish men and women had, none the less, gone to fight in opposition to the evil of Nazism. He spoke, too, of lingering dilemmas for families today, referring to his own situation.
“In our house, Remembrance Sunday is a delicate affair. Apart from our denominational diversity, we enjoy a cocktail of national identities: Irish, certainly, of various shades of green, and barely a hint of orange. Then, on my side, an English mother, albeit one well rooted in the Liberties of Dublin. But my wife’s mother is German.
“I believe I have relatives by marriage who fought for the Third Reich — and not unwillingly. It’s not everyone who can boast that their mother-in-law had Adolf Hitler as a godfather. It’s not everyone who’d want to.”
Canon Oxley was critical of the modern culture in which truth was so easily compromised. “In the conflict between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, neutrality is not an option,” he said.
“One of the things we have been forcibly reminded of in recent years is the importance of truth and honesty in our public discourse. I know it has been said that diplomacy is, essentially, lying, but to a nicer class of people. . . All clergy know the value of the occasional white lie and Jesuitical ‘mental reservation’; but the cynical disregard of truth, the deliberate manipulation of information, the poisoning of the well of knowledge, has become endemic at the highest levels, and has proved corrosive and destructive of our society.
“Social media and computerised wizardry may make this easier to do . . . but the motivation to deceive comes from within the darker corners of the human heart, where greed, lust, and hatred fester.”
Services of Remembrance were also held in Cork, Galway, and Kilkenny.