Island of Ireland Peace Park and Tower 20th anniversary to be marked

The late Glen Barr and the late Paddy Harte T.D. at the Peace Tower in Messines.
The late Glen Barr and the late Paddy Harte T.D. at the Peace Tower in Messines.

A special variety concert is being organised in November to mark the 20 th anniversary of the opening of the Island of Ireland Peace Park and Tower in Messines, Belgium.

The Peace Park and Tower was the inspiration of Waterside community leader Glen Barr and Donegal T.D. Paddy Harte.

It was designed to commemorate the bravery of all those who were sacrificed in the Great War from both Unionist and Nationalist traditions in Ireland.

The idea developed out of a visit by a group of eminent people from different parts of Ireland to the First World War battlefields of the Somme area in 1996. The concept then emerged around doing something towards forgiveness and reconciliation on their return. Messines was selected because it was at the battle of Messines on June 7, 1917 that the Nationalist 16th Irish Div. and the Unionist 36th Ulster Div. fought and died together for the first time and where the young John Meeke of the 36th Div. risked his life to retrieve the badly wounded Major Willie Redmond of the 16th Div. from the battlefield: two men from different traditions, both there for different political reasons, sworn enemies in Ireland, brothers in arms on a foreign battlefield fighting a common enemy.

The flagship Peace Tower was funded through the two governments, building societies, banks, insurance companies and private donations. 36 young people were selected from training schemes throughout Ireland to build the Tower and Park along with professional trades people and Irish President Mary McAleese, Queen Elizabeth II and King Albert II officially opened it on November 11, 1998.

Through the International School for Peace Studies and the drive and determination of Glen Barr, the Peace Park has continued to be a tool to support peace and reconciliation.

Jackie Barr said: “Sadly my dad Glen Barr and Paddy Harte passed away last year and so in this 20th year anniversary it is even more poignant that we pay tribute to the inspirational story and men behind the building of the Peace Tower and Park. It is with this in mind that we are hosting a variety concert on Saturday, November 10 at 7.30pm in the Waterside Theatre. We are delighted to have received funding for this event from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“We are looking for anyone who was involved in the building of the tower, especially the 36 trainees, to be involved. Contact ISPS on 02871 311005.”

Tickets are available from Theatre box office on 02871314000 or via www.watersidetheatre.com