GEMMA PRINCE

Dungannon soprano and harpist, Gemma Prince

Dungannon soprano and harpist Gemma Prince performed some of Thomas Moore’s Irish Melodies at St Macartan’s Cathedral Clogher. “Sing, Sweet Harp” provided a fine opening to the 25th annual William Carleton Society Summer School. The school director Aidan Fee introduced Gemma, with a talk on Moore. Cathedral organist Diane Whittaker provided the music at the start and finish of the performance.

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MONAGHAN MOURNS NICE DEATHS

MONAGHAN EXPRESSES SYMPATHY WITH FRANCE IN AFTERMATH OF NICE CARNAGE

President Hollande on Official Visit to Ireland

Michael Fisher  NORTHERN STANDARD  Thursday 21st July 2016

As County Monaghan continued to express condolences with the people of France, President François Hollande arrived in Dublin this morning on an official visit to Ireland. It’s just a week since an attack in Nice claimed by “Islamic State” killed 84 people and injured 200 others during Bastille Day celebrations. A lorry driver deliberately ploughed into the large crowd gathered on the promenade and drove for nearly 2km before being shot dead by police.

The incident came eight months after a series of IS attacks in Paris left 130 dead. On both occasions, the sympathy of Monaghan people has been passed on to the French state.

BOOKS OF CONDOLENCES

Monaghan County Council Cathaoirleach PJ O’Hanlon opened a book of condolences on Monday at the civic offices in Carrickmacross. The Council’s Chief Executive Eamonn O’Sullivan then signed. Books were also made available in Monaghan town (at the Council offices), in Ballybay, Clones and Castleblayney. Both Council representatives had attended Bastille Day celebrations in Dublin at the Ailesbury Road residence of the French Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault.

Referring to the attack in Nice, Councillor O’Hanlon said it was very, very hard to comprehend and understand. But it was very important that as a nation we condemned “this horrendous terrorist attack” on what we all represent as Europeans, which is freedom of speech and democracy. We must show sincere and genuine sympathy to the people of France, he added.

 BASTILLE DAY CELEBRATIONS IN DUBLIN

The Monaghan delegation at the Bastille Day celebrations included Eugene O’Gorman of the Carhaix/Carrickmacross twinning committee. The Chief Executive of Lacpatrick Co-op Gabriel D’Arcy represented business interests.

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French Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault with Canon Robert Marsden in February 2016 after he received the Légion d’Honneur award  Pic. Michael Fisher

Two men with Monaghan connections had been presented in the past year with France’s main honour, the Légion d’Honneur, for their roles in the British Army in World War Two, helping to liberate France. They were the retired Church of Ireland (Clogher diocese) rector, Canon Robert Marsden from Dublin and the late Sir John (Jack) Leslie of Glaslough. Canon Marsden attended the French National Day celebrations along with Mark Leslie, nephew of Sir Jack. Irish Times columnist Frank McNally from Carrickmacross was also among the invitees.

FRENCH AMBASSADOR ON LINKS WITH IRELAND

The French Ambassador told guests that Ireland must retain its strong trade relationship with France in the wake of the UK vote to leave the European Union. He said the period ahead would be full of challenges and opportunities and also of threats.

“We have learned recently, with great sadness, that a member of the EU will intend to leave this community and this will create challenges. We are all sad because of it,” he said.

“At the same time, we need to manage this tradition in the best way possible, taking into account the interest of our people and we must also pay attention to the voices that are expressing concerns everywhere in Europe, ” he added.

Monsieur Thébault said: “I think it is very important that France and Ireland must contribute actively to the redefinition of what a sensible, pragmatic but meaningful Europe should be.” The United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in a referendum three weeks ago.

The Ambassador said President Hollande’s visit to Ireland would be a significant moment. “This visit could not happen at a better moment because the president of France can pay tribute to Ireland and recognise the Irish people and our shared history”, he said.

Mr Thébault also paid tribute to the Irish soccer fans’ good behaviour while at the Euro 2016 tournament in France. “The green army which peacefully invaded France was fantastic and continued for several weeks”, he said.

VISIT BY PRESIDENT HOLLANDE

President Hollande is here to discuss the impact of Brexit on the island. He will meet President Higgins and will also hold discussions with the Taoiseach. However he will no longer be unveiling a new memorial in Glasnevin dedicated to the Irish who died while fighting in France during his visit. The memorial is a gift by the French government to Ireland. The unveiling has been postponed until a later date.

Speaking last month following the outcome of the British referendum, President Hollande described the British people’s choice to leave the European Union as painful, but one which must be respected and all the consequences fully accepted. He said: “The UK will no longer be a member of the European Union. The procedures set forth in the treaties will be implemented quickly – that is the rule and the consequence. France, for both its own sake and that of Great Britain, will continue to cooperate with this great ally, particularly on defence issues.”

He said this posed a grave test for Europe, which would now have to show solidity and strength by responding as necessary to control the economic and financial risks of the UK’s exit. “Measures are already underway and I am confident they will be effective,” the French President said. To move forward, Europe must also reassert its values of freedom, tolerance and peace, and be a sovereign power taking its own destiny in hand and defending its model. “There is a huge danger in the face of extremism and populism. It always takes less time to undo than to do, to destroy than to build. France – a founding country of Europe – will not accept that,” President Hollande asserted.

France would therefore be leading efforts to ensure Europe focused on the key issues:

  • Security and defence of the European continent, to protect its borders and keep the peace amid the threats its faces;
  • Investment in growth and jobs, to implement industrial policies in terms of new technologies and energy transition;
  • Tax and social harmonisation to shore up European economies with rules and safeguards;
  • Strengthening of the eurozone and its democratic governance.

It is President Hollande’s belief that “Europe […] must bring projects to the table rather than get bogged down in red tape. It must be understood and overseen by its citizens. Where it is expected to make decisions, these must be made swiftly, while decisions that are solely for the Member States to make must be left up to them, once and for all”.

“Europe is more than just a great market: it is a great ideal. This has too often been forgotten and it is surely this fact that has made it lose its way. Europe needs to remain a source of hope for young people, as it is their horizon. Today, history is on our doorstep,” declared François Hollande. “This is a historical turning point and we therefore need to be equal to the situation we are facing.”

 

THIEPVAL COMMEMORATION

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Ulster Tower, Thiepval  Pic. IRFU Charitable Trust

REMEMBERING THOSE WHO DIED AT THE SOMME 100 YEARS AGO

 Michael Fisher in Thiepval  Northern Standard  Thursday 7th July 2016

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Northern Standard, Thursday 7th July 2016

As she laid a wreath at the Ulster Tower in France last week, Minister Heather Humphreys stepped back and reflected on the carnage that had taken place on the battlefields of the Somme exactly one hundred years ago. She thought of the young men, including those from Ulster and other parts of Ireland, who had joined the British Army and had gone out to fight for their country and what they believed in. Some had written home to their mothers days before the offensive began and would die in the conflict.

The memorial which is similar to Helen’s Tower at Clandeboye, Co. Down, is beside Thiepval Wood where soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division including some Monaghan men left the trenches at 7.30am on July 1st 1916 to advance towards the German lines. Heather Humphreys laid a wreath along with the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster MLA, the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers MP and Britain’s Prince Charles.

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NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers M.P. at the Thiepval Memorial commemoration #Somme16

The service included representatives of the four main churches in Ireland. For the first 6time, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin, was present at Thiepval along with his Church of Ireland counterpart, Archbishop Richard Clarke. The Presbyterian Moderator Dr Frank Sellar and the Methodist President Reverend Bill Mullally joined them.

They jointly called for Christians of all traditions in Ireland to pray for peace in these challenging times.  The Church leaders said: “Let us put our faith into action: love our neighbours, reach out to the stranger, care for the vulnerable, build community and be agents for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Addressing the service Archbishop Clarke referred to how the Somme and Ulster had belonged together in the imagination of succeeding generations over the last century. He noted that the Somme represented “a connectedness for all time with many men and women, and not only in Ulster nor only for one Christian tradition.”

He also recalled the recent pilgrimage to the Somme last month which he jointly led alongside Archbishop Martin, and which included a cross-community group of young people from across the island of Ireland. Archbishop Clarke encouraged the present generation to relate the sacrifice of the Somme to its hopes, prayers and aspirations for the future. “We must believe in a hope of the future for our young people, as they must believe in it for themselves”, he said.

The Presbyterian Moderator, Dr Frank Sellar, spoke afterwards of how for many families like his own, the Battle of the Somme was still personal. He said the Great War had changed the course of human history and a century later the world is still living with the consequences of its aftermath. The Somme, as a particularly poignant part of that conflict, changed the lives of countless thousands and indelibly shaped whole communities in Ulster and throughout the island of Ireland. It was a time of terrible carnage and incredible heroism, he added.

“For us today, 100 years on, it is difficult to imagine, or even contemplate, the shear scale of the loss of life and the impact that it had then. My grandfather lost two of his brothers on the battlefield, while a third, who survived, received the Military Medal for his bravery,” Dr Sellar said.

“For many families, like my own, the events of 1916 are still personal. It is however an enormous privilege and honour to represent the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at such an historic occasion, as we pause and remember those who died and reflect on their loss.”

“I am also reminded of our own fractured society and troubled world we live in and the vital importance of critical reflection and inclusive remembering. I am also very conscious of the necessity to always search for true reconciliation and for the creative reimagining of a civil society humbly modeled on Christ Jesus for the common good,” he said.

The objective of the 36th Ulster division was to dominate the area between Beaucourt to the north and Thiepval to the south, necessitating the capture of all German trench systems in front of them, particularly the strongly defended Schwaben Redoubt. In addition to its twelve battalions, there were four battalions of Tyneside Irish and seven regular Irish battalions distributed in other divisions, giving a total of twenty-three Irish infantry battalions involved on this front.

The Somme campaign lasted 147 days, from 1st July to 24th November 1916. The Allies captured 120 square miles of land, and advanced six miles. They suffered 419,654 casualties: forty men killed or wounded for every yard advanced.

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Wreaths Laid at the Memorial Stone, Thiepval Memorial

At the start of her visit last Thursday, the Minister laid a wreath at the Ginchy Cross in Guillemont. It remembers the sacrifice of the 16th Irish Division of the British Army, which entered the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. Minister Humphreys will return there for a separate ceremony to mark the centenary in September.

She then visited one of the many cemeteries in the Picardy area maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission. Delville Wood contains the graves of over 5,500 servicemen, of whom 3,500 remain unidentified. They include some Irish casualties.

Heather Humphreys also attended a special Abbey Theatre production of ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme’, which was supported by her Department, at the Maison de la Culture in Amiens. It was attended by the playwright, Frank McGuinness.

On Friday morning the Cavan/Monaghan TD accompanied President Higgins at the Thiepval Memorial for an international service marking the start of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916. This ceremony was attended by a number of senior members of the British royal family, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster MLA along with her counterparts from Scotland and Wales.

The Minister said it was very important that the Irish Defence Forces led by Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett had been included in the ceremony along with British and Commonwealth servicemen and women.

CQMS Gerry White from Cork read from the last letter of Lt Tom Kettle, journalist and soldier with the 16th Irish Division. Students from St Paul’s community college in Waterford also played a role at the service, which was attended by 10,000 guests, mainly from the United Kingdom. Solicitor Brendan O’Reilly from Cootehill and his son Aoghan from Dernakesh National School travelled from Co. Cavan. They saw the grave of Mr O’Reilly’s grand uncle Rifleman J.P. O’Reilly. He served in the Royal Irish Rifles and was killed in September 1916. He is buried at the nearby Lonsdale Cemetery.

Speaking about her visit to France Minister Humphreys said:

“The Battle of the Somme was a seismic event, which had a huge impact on the island of Ireland. The Somme has particular resonance in my own province of Ulster, due to the very heavy losses suffered by the 36th Ulster Division on the first day of the battle. There were more than 5,500 casualties in the 36th on July 1st 1916, including 2,000 deaths. Over the four years of World War One, it is estimated that 50,000 Irish men were killed while serving in the British, Commonwealth or United States armies.”

“This had a profound effect on the island of Ireland, and almost certainly had an impact on every community across the country. For decades, the stories of these men went largely untold, and many of those who returned home from the Somme and other battles, felt forced to conceal their own experiences. The Decade of Commemorations has allowed us to explore some of these stories for the first time, giving those who fought and those who died their rightful place in Irish history.”

“During 2016, our centenary year, it has been incredibly important to me that we remember those who died fighting abroad, as well as those who died fighting during the Rising here at home. One hundred years on from both the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, we are hearing a more complete narrative on the Irish experience in 1916, and the impact the events of that year had on our culture, our society and our psyche.”

DUBLIN MONAGHAN BOMBS

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Charles Flanagan T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade 

GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO PRESS BRITISH ON ISSUE OF DUBLIN-MONAGHAN BOMBS: FLANAGAN

Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Thursday 14th July 2016

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan TD has said pursuing the British government on the issue of the Dublin Monaghan bombings in 1974 was a major priority for him and for the Irish government. He told the Dáil his commitment was reflected in the Programme for a Partnership Government that was agreed in May.

In a written response to questions tabled by the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and that party’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Deputy Darragh O’Brien, Minister Flanagan said the all-Party Dáil motion on the Dublin-Monaghan bombing that was adopted in the House on 25th May had been conveyed to the British Government. This motion, like the two previously adopted in 2008 and 2011, called on the British Government to allow access by an independent, international judicial figure to all original documents relating to the bombings.

Mr Flanagan continued: “The Government is committed to actively pursuing the implementation of these all-Party Dáil motions relating to the Dublin Monaghan bombing atrocities. To this end, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in late May, conveying a copy of the recent resolution. In addition, I raised the matter in my bilateral meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in Belfast last week. In this meeting I advised the Secretary of State that this latest motion represents the consensus political view in Ireland that an independent, international judicial review of all the relevant documents is required to establish the full facts of the Dublin Monaghan bombings.”

“I underlined that the absence of a response from the British Government was of deep concern to the Government and indeed this House and emphasised the urgent need to respond to the three Dáil motions. Secretary of State Villiers recognised the importance that the Government and Dáil Éireann attach to this case and she indicated that the British Government is considering a response which would adequately address the motions.”

“The Government will continue to raise this matter with the British Government, urging them to provide a satisfactory response to the motions that have been adopted by this House. I have made clear to the Secretary of State that there is a pressing need to provide answers to the families of the victims. The Taoiseach has also raised this issue with Prime Minister Cameron emphasising the Government’s continued support for the Dáil motions.”

“Many families continue to deal not only with the awful pain of losing a loved one, but also with the struggle for answers decades after these traumatic events. Accordingly, the establishment of a new comprehensive framework for dealing with the past, as envisaged in the Stormont House Agreement, is a priority for the Government.”

In conclusion, the Minister said he continued to engage with the British Government, the NI Executive and the Northern Ireland political parties in discussions to find a route to a final agreement on legacy issues. He said the Irish government believed that the legacy institutions agreed under the Stormont House Agreement offered the best hope of helping the thousands of families impacted by the troubles. He was therefore working to secure the necessary political agreement to get the legacy bodies established and up-and-running as soon as possible.

HRH CHARLES LIKED DONEGAL

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Prince Charles at the Somme Centenary Service at the Thiepval Memorial  Pic. PA

PRINCE CHARLES HOPES TO MAKE ANOTHER VISIT TO IRELAND

President and Minister Humphreys Participate in Battle of Somme Centenary

Michael Fisher  NORTHERN STANDARD Thursday 7th July 2016 p.1

Britain’s Prince Charles has told Minister Heather Humphreys during an informal meeting at the Somme Centenary in France he would be happy to return to Ireland on another visit. The Minister who chairs the consultation group on commemorations said the Prince of Wales told her he had been very impressed with Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal.

Six weeks ago Minister Humphreys welcomed Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Duchess of Cornwall to Glenveagh. The Minister described it as one of the jewels of Ireland’s natural heritage. It is one of six national parks in Ireland and is run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which comes under the brief of Minister Humphreys.

The Cavan/Monaghan TD accompanied President Higgins at the Thiepval Memorial last Friday for a service marking the start of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916. The Minister said it was very important that the Irish Defence Forces led by Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett had been included in the ceremony along with British and Commonwealth servicemen and women.

ULSTER TOWER

Following the poignant service attended by 10,000 guests Minister Humphreys represented the government at a wreath-laying ceremony at the nearby Ulster Tower. It is beside Thiepval Wood where soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division including some Monaghan men left the trenches at 7.30am on July 1st 1916 to advance towards the German lines. She laid a wreath along with the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster MLA and the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers MP.

The previous day Heather Humphreys paid tribute to the 16th Irish Division who had entered the battle two months later at Guillemont and also sustained heavy losses. The Minister attended a special performance in Amiens by the Abbey Theatre of the play “Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme”.

STATE COMMEMORATION

On Saturday, the Minister will attend the main state event to commemorate the Somme Centenary, which is being held in conjunction with the Royal British Legion. It will take place in the Irish National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge in Dublin at 12 noon and will be televised live by RTÉ.

Invited guests will include members of the government, Council of State, elected representatives, members of the diplomatic corps and judiciary, and representatives of a large number of veterans’ organisations. It will involve a wreath-laying by the President Higgins. Ambassadors of the countries that fought at the Somme and the Presidents of the Royal British Legion from the Republic and Northern Ireland will also lay wreaths.

Speaking to the Northern Standard on her return from France, Minister Humphreys said the services in Thiepval had been very moving. She said the representation of the Irish government and Defence Forces at the Ulster Tower had been very much appreciated. She met representatives of the Orange Order there, building on contacts developed when she attended the visit by Prince Charles in May to a new Museum of Orange Heritage at Loughgall, Co. Armagh, which had been part-funded by the Irish government.

The Minister said she had wanted the programme of events for the centenary commemorations to be inclusive and respectful and it had been. It had opened up our understanding of events in 1916. It was not about one narrative, but concerned all the narratives and it was important to hear all the personal accounts from that era. People like 18 year-old Katie McGrane from Magheracloone, who in a letter to her mother dated May 2nd, 1916 had described the streets of Dublin city centre in the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

We had matured as a nation in our ability to accept and hear about the events and stories of one hundred years ago, the Minister said. We had reconnected with our history and there was now a great sense of pride, she said. She felt there had been great community engagement for the commemorative programme, including in County Monaghan. This included the distribution of the national flag to national schools with talks on civic duty and citizenship.

She believed it was important to keep the momentum going. She complimented the great work done for the 1916 Centenary by Monaghan County Council, the County Museum, the library service as well as local arts and heritage groups.

MOORE STREET SITE

Minister Humphreys also responded to criticism she was failing to protect buildings at Moore Street in Dublin city centre connected with the Easter Rising. Last month the government decided to bring an appeal to the Supreme Court over a High Court ruling which declared Moore Street to be a 1916 “battlefield site” and was therefore due to be protected. Earlier this year, a court action had been successfully taken by the 1916 Relatives Group which sought to prevent the destruction of buildings on the street.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD condemned the decision by the government to appeal the High Court judgement. He said it was scandalous that in the centenary year of the Rising the government would refuse to uphold a court judgement that would protect Moore Street and its environs that were part of the legacy of 1916. Instead of defending and protecting the historical legacy of the Rising the government was putting the rights of developers and profiteers first, Mr Adams claimed.

Minister Humphreys said she was the first Minister to do anything about purchasing the site at 14-17 Moore Street last year. They had then embarked on a programme of conservation for the four buildings, to show what they were like in 1916 with the holes between the houses used by the rebels to move from one room to another. This site was where the Rising’s leaders held their last council of war and decided to surrender.

The Minister argued that other buildings on the street had been constructed after 1916 and were not historically significant. The vast bulk of the surrounding properties were privately owned. Her remit extended to the National Monument, which was being preserved. These houses retained significant 18th-century elements, including staircases, partitions, plasterwork, doors, floors, fittings and fixtures. The development of the wider street was a matter for Dublin City Council, she said.

However in his High Court judgment, Mr Justice Max Barrett said the wealth of evidence before the court pointed to historical significance in some of the other buildings. These included number 10, a portion of the parting wall at number 13 and number 18, as well as the building at 20-21 Moore Street.

Minister Humphreys said owing to the potential widespread implications of the “battlefield” judgement for planning and development nationally, the government had decided to appeal the decision. If the whole street was a national monument, then how would this translate to other historical sites, she asked. She said she fully understood that Moore Street was a location that held great importance for many people.

The Minister said she intended to establish a consultative group on Moore Street with an independent Chair as a means to make positive progress in relation to the future of the street. The group would include cross-party Oireachtas members and other relevant stakeholders including the 1916 relatives. She hoped they would sit down and see how they could progress the situation and make sure the four precious buildings were restored.

The completed project would be a permanent legacy to the leaders of 1916. She hoped the group could chart a way forward. The government was committed to looking after the four buildings with their original fabric, she said.