Sunday, 20 April 2014
Today, Easter Sunday, in this week of the 98th anniversary of the Easter Rising I travelled to Dublin. Not to celebrate the Easter Rising nor to commemorate it, but to remember those soldiers who died for King and Country on the streets of Dublin 98 years ago. Men of the Sherwood Foresters, men from the South Staffordshire Regiment, as well as Lancers, Royal Irish and other units were amongst those who having signed up for King and Country to fight a war in Europe were to die on the streets of Dublin. Trained for a different conflict their orders were simple, as the sound of the whistle they were to rise from their position and move towards the enemy. Challenging on Flanders Fields, on Dublin’s streets and bridges against an enemy in easily defended buildings it was a futile action. Every twenty minutes the whistles blew, they rose from their positions and they died. Trying to cross one bridge defended by just over a dozen insurgents cost the army 240 casualties killed or injured. Today as thousands paraded and stood outside the GPO to remember the Rising I walked quietly amongst the gravestones in Grangegorman Military Cemetery recognising those who fell in Dublin by the name of their regiment and the date of their death. Much has been made of whether or not a member of the Royal family and a Government representative should attend the events planned for 2016 in Dublin, the centenary of the Rising. As I stood amongst the rows of gravestones I was convinced that not only should they consider being in Dublin at Easter 2016 it is essential that they be there. Not to celebrate the Easter Rising nor commemorate it but to remember the soldiers who died in the Rising. They did not choose the time or place of their death, they did choose the uniform they wore and the standard they followed. Whether they died on the fields of Flanders or the streets of Dublin their sacrifice was the same, our remembrance must also be the same. Too often when we accuse Republicans of rewriting history it is because we do not know enough to challenge them. In the next few years unionists will learn much of what happened on the first of July 1916 on the Somme, the challenge is to learn as much about the sacrifices of other British troops in April of the same year in Dublin. Many will recognise the words of Binyons poem for The Fallen, it begins: With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, England mourns for her dead across the sea. And continues with the recognisable lines: At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. As we approach the anniversaries of many battles and the loss of many sons who died for our freedom let us commit ourselves to extending that line spoken so often in remembrance: We will remember them all.