The annual ‘Island of Ireland’ week, which commemorates the sacrifices made by the men and women of Ireland during The Great War 1914-1918 is to be held in the North West over the weekend of June 4-5 this year.
Glen Barr of the International School for Peace Studies, who is organising the event as part of the North East PEACE III Partnership’s Messines Experience Programme, explained: “For some years now, people from all parts of Ireland and from all walks of life, have gathered in the Flanders region of Belgium for the ‘Island of Ireland Week’.
The occasion commemorates the men from Ireland, north and south who fought and died together at the Battle of Messines in Belgium on 7th June 1917. The commemoration consists of a parade through the village of Messines to a Commemoration Service at the Island of Ireland Peace Park; this is followed by a second parade through Ypres to a Service of Remembrance held at the Menin Gate Memorial. However in recent years this annual commemoration has been held in Londonderry.”
In explaining the decision to hold the event in Northern Ireland, Mr Barr said: “It is all very fine parading and meeting up in Belgium and France but it is in the towns and cities of this island that we must display our appreciation for those who fought and died together in foreign battlefields and through their sacrifice learn to co-exist on this island.” There will be memorial events in Ballymoney, Coleraine and Derry.
Mr Barr said: “It is hoped that as many as possible will help us remember those who fought and died in Flanders so that their souls which have haunted those foreign battlefields for the past 90 years can rest in peace.”
The Messines Experience Programme is being co-ordinated by the International School for Peace Studies and is funded under the European Union’s PEACE III programme, managed for the Special EU Programme Body by the North East PEACE III Partnership.