A MEMORIAL has opened in Dublin for all of the Irishmen who died in Flanders over the course of the First World War.
It is estimated that more than 49,000 Irishman – including recent Irish immigrants living in America – died during the conflict.
More than 13,000 of those deaths came in Belgium across the 13 miles of front that represented the Ypres salient in Flanders.
Many are still buried in Flanders over in Northern Belgium.
Those men have now been commemorated as part of a new Peace Garden in the Irish capital, located opposite Christchurch cathedral in what was previously a largely unused public park.
The park was opened this week as part of a special ceremony presided over by Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring and Jan Peumans, speaker of the parliament of Flanders.
Dedicated to all those from the island of Ireland who died in Flanders Fields during the First World War, the ceremony saw soil from Flanders buried with soil from the four provinces of Ireland.
The combined soil was then placed within a circle of Leinster granite created to reflect the design in the roof of the Menin Gate in Ypres.
Ring told the Press Association: “This memorial will serve as a reminder of our long-standing friendship with Flanders and, along with the Tree of Life sculpture, will stand as focal points in the Peace Garden when it officially re-opens in the coming weeks.”
Min @HMcEntee representing the Government at the opening of the Flanders Fields Memorial at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
The memorial brings together soil from the resting place of Irish WW1 soldiers with earth from the four provinces of their homeland. pic.twitter.com/ATcmQfLHhj
— Irish Foreign Ministry (@dfatirl) April 30, 2019
The memorial will eventually feature a grass sward with an engraving featuring poetry from Francis Ledwidge.
Born in Co Meath, Ledwidge fought and died at the battle of Passchendaele in 1917. The memorial will also feature four benches built from Belgian blue stone and engraved with the crests of Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht.
Nic Van der Marliere told the Press Association: “The human price paid to safeguard peace and human rights and the message of tolerance and reconciliation are an essential part of remembrance for Flanders.”
“The First World War may be a hundred years behind us, but the inalienability of the rights of all human beings, respect for freedom and democracy, are as relevant today as they were then.
“Maybe more so, because today too many people and countries take them too much for granted.
“Flanders will always show its profound gratitude for the extraordinary generosity and support of the Irish people in its hour of need.
“The Flanders Fields Memorial, uniting soil from Flanders and the four provinces of Ireland, will be an eternal testimony to our great and unwavering friendship.”