The Peace Tower at the Island of Ireland Peace Park, Messines - setting for June 7 commemorations (Photo: Centenary News)

UK & Ireland to share Messines Centenary remembrance

Posted on on 23 April 2017
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Britain and Ireland are to join in paying tribute to the soldiers from nationalist and unionist traditions who fought side by side at the Battle of Messines in the summer of 1917.

Members of the public in both countries are invited to register interest in attending the Centenary remembrance service in Belgium on 7 June 2017.

The ticketed event will take place at the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines, a symbol of reconciliation inaugurated in 1998, the year of the Good Friday Agreement to end the sectarian violence of 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland.

James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the UK Government, said: "I am pleased to announce this shared UK-Ireland ceremony to mark the centenary of the Battle of Messines. We have seen all too well how history can divide, but our ambitious goal throughout this decade of centenaries is to seek to use history to bring us together, and to build on the political progress that has been made throughout these islands."

Expecting high demand, the British and Irish Governments say entrance can't be guaranteed to all those applying to attend,  and tickets may be allocated through a ballot.

The Island of Ireland Peace Park (Photo: Centenary News)

The Battle of Messines marked the first time that soldiers of British Army's 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) Divisions fought alongside each other during the Great War.  

The  Allied attack, also involving Australian and New Zealand troops, opened with a series of massive mine explosions on 7 June 1917 as a prelude to the Flanders offensive known as the Third Battle of Ypres, or Passchendaele.

Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister, Charles Flanagan, said the Centenary service would 'reflect the spirit of reconciliation which the two Irish Divisions have come to symbolise.

"Those from the island of Ireland were brought together by diverse motivations but they shared a common purpose as soldiers and, caught up in the grim realities of war, no doubt a common desire: to survive and return home."

The Peace Tower and surrounding memorial park at Messines are dedicated to all those from the Island of Ireland who fought and died in the First World War.  It was inaugurated on Armistice Day 1998 at a ceremony attended by President Mary McAleese of Ireland, Queen Elizabeth II of the UK and the Belgian Monarch, King Albert II.

The closing date for expressions of interest to attend the Messines Commemorations is Friday 5 May 2017 at 12 noon. See the Northern Ireland Office or the Irish Department for Foreign Affairs websites for details.

A Centenary News reminder that Australian and New Zealand commemorative events will also be held in Messines on the June 7 Centenary. For more information, visit WW100 New Zealand.

Source: UK & Irish Governments

Images: Centenary News

Posted by: CN Editorial Team