25th anniversary of Island of Ireland Peace Park to be marked with ceremony in Belgium

Peace Park, which remembers Irishmen who died in first World War, was made a UNESCO world heritage site last month

Representatives of the Irish, British, and Belgian Governments, will come together to lead a commemoration ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Belgium.

The park, which remembers the Irishmen who died in the first World War but also all those who died in the Troubles, was opened on Armistice Day 1998, the 80th anniversary of the end of the war.

The project, which has become a symbol of reconciliation and remembrance, was conceived by the late Paddy Harte, a Fine Gael TD from Donegal, and the late Glenn Barr, a former loyalist turned community activist from Derry. They died within 10 weeks of each other in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

The Island of Ireland Peace Park was recently recognised as a World Heritage site by Unesco along with other sites of memory associated with the western front.

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The 25th anniversary commemoration will be attended on behalf of the Government by the Minister for Education Norma Foley with officials from the British Government and Northern Ireland Executive Office in attendance, along with the Mayor of Messines. Members of the Harte and Barr families will also be in attendance.

The Island of Ireland Peace Park was officially inaugurated by President Mary McAleese, with Queen Elizabeth II, and King Albert of Belgium.

It marked the first time that the Irish State officially recognised the soldiers from Ireland who lost their lives in the first World War.

President Mary McAleese, on behalf of the Irish State, publicly acknowledged the “national amnesia” in remembering the soldiers from the Island of Ireland. This ceremony also marked the first-ever public meeting between an Irish Head of State and a British Monarch. Other meetings had been held in private.

The 25th-anniversary commemoration ceremony takes place in the afternoon.

An Armistice Day service will take place at the Cross of Sacrifice in Glasnevin Cemetery at 11am and the traditional Remembrance Day service takes place in St Patrick’s Cathedral at 3.15pm on Sunday.

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