A century in the making: The Irish Republic's peace with WW1

Between them, the 14 British divisions that took part in the Somme offensive of July 1, 1916, won nine Victoria Crosses on that day.

One of those outfits, the 36th (Ulster) Division, earned four of those medals.

The Ulstermen’s mission on July 1 was to take a large German fortification known as the Schwaben Redoubt. That they managed to do, but they were out on a limb.

The efforts of the 36th (Ulster) Division lies at the heart of unionism to this day. Credit: ITV News

The divisions to the right and left did not achieve their objectives and the Ulsters found themselves flanked both sides by the Germans.

The British second wave couldn’t reinforce the 36th and so they were forced to pull back.

The valour shown and the sacrifices made by the Ulster Division at the Somme lie at the heart of Unionism to this day.

The loyalist marches and parades that are a feature of summertime in Northern Ireland are – in part – to commemorate the men who fought at the Somme.

In Northern Ireland they have never been forgotten.

By contrast, their counterparts in southern Ireland have never really been remembered.

Some 200,000 Irishmen fought for the British Army during the Great War, but those from what we now call the Republic of Ireland, returned home as lost souls.

In their absence, their homeland had rebelled against the country they had fought for.

The Irishmen who fought for the British Army have never really been remembered. Credit: ITV News

In Dublin, 1916 means not the Somme, but the Easter Rising, the rebellion against British rule.

Consequently after the Armistice in 1918, tens of thousands of Irishmen who had fought for the crown, found themselves written out of history by a few who had fought against the crown.

For Irish servicemen returning home it really was a case of “don’t mention the war.”

Wexford County lost 875 men during the war - a loss recognised by a plaque installed last year. Credit: ITV News

It’s only in the last few years that attitudes have changed and that an important component in Irish history has finally been recognised.

Next week at Glasnevin, the national cemetery in Dublin, a cross of sacrifice will be dedicated by the Irish President. Beside the cross is a wall etched with the names of more than two hundred World War One dead who are buried at the site.

For decades that wall sat in a forgotten corner at Glasnevin. It has been moved to a much more prominent place. It’s a metaphor for Ireland’s war story.

Bob’s Bar sits beside the old road connecting Dublin and Cork. Earlier this month in a corner of the pub Jack’s Snug was officially declared open.

Bob’s Bar has a mini-museum on Jack Moyney VC of the Irish Guards. Credit: ITV News

The publican, Bob Campion, is a great-nephew of Jack Moyney VC of the Irish Guards who fought at 3rd Ypres.

Jack’s Snug features mementoes of his service, including the cover of an old Victor comic that tells the story of the action at which he won his Victoria Cross.

Jack’s Snug features mementoes of Jack Moyney's service. Credit: ITV News

Mr Campion admits that had he set up his mini-museum just a few years ago he would probably have got a brick through the window.

But times have changed.

A Victor comic tells the story of the action where Moyney won his VC. Credit: ITV News

First World War recognition has improved Anglo-Irish relations and cross-border relations on the island of Ireland.

It has taken a century, but the Irish Republic is now at peace with its part in the Great War.

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