In 1998 50 members of the Irish Naval Association travelled to France and Belgium to participate in the 80th anniversary ceremonies commemorating the end of WW1...See here...and our return visit..
During our visit we were invited guests at Messines for the inauguration of the "Island of Ireland Peace Tower and Park"
The 100 feet tall tower modelled on an Irish round tower, marks the area of the Island of Ireland Peace Park. The Park was inaugurated by the President of Ireland Mrs.Mary McAleese and HM Queen Elizabeth on 11th November 1998 in the presence of the King and Queen of the Belgians. The Park commemorates Irishmen of both Catholic and Protestant traditions who fought side by side during the First World War. Over 50,000 men from the Island of Ireland died fighting in the war. The tower, faced in stone from St. Mary's Hospital in Mullingar in Ireland, (the first Victoria Cross of WW1 was awarded to Maurice Dease who was from Mullingar) includes stones from every county in Ireland as well as a piece of limestone from Temple bar are in Dublin (Temple bar is now a hive of activity in the evening for the young and old and in particular overseas visitors who like to sample the Irish night life). The tower is surrounded by four gardens representing four provinces and is designed so that the sun's rays enter the tower at 1100 hours on the 11th November. The project was the idea of Paddy harte, former Fine Gael TD for Donegal North East, and Glen Barr once a senior member of the Ulster Defence Association, both of whom spoke during the dedication ceremony.
The building of the tower was assisted by a team of 36 young people who in groups of 12 had attended training courses in belfast and Dublin. The memorial is the first physical symbol of remembrance of all the Irishmen who died in the war. It stands in an area where the two Irish Divisions on the Western Front, the mainly Nationalist 16th Irish Division and the predominately Unionist 36th Ulster Division, fought side by side in 1917 and won a resounding victory.
President McAleese finished her speech by saying " We hope that the goal of peace promised in the good Friday Agreement will be our gift to the next generation. I wish to thank you most sincerely for affording me the opportunity of commemorating the memory and honouring the sarcrifice of those from the Island of Ireland who died in the Great War.