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Irish ambassador takes part in Cenotaph wreath-laying for first time in almost 70 years

The ambassador was invited to take part to mark “the immense contribution and shared sacrifice” of Irish people who served in Britain’s armed forces.

Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

IRELAND HAS PARTICIPATED in the Remembrance Sunday wreath-laying in London for the first time since the 1940s, with Ambassador Dan Mulhall taking part in the ceremony on the State’s behalf.

The British Government asked Ireland to lay a wreath at the annual event last month, making the invitation to recognise “the immense contribution and shared sacrifice” of the tens of thousands of Irish people who had served in its armed forces.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said it was an opportunity “to reflect on and remember the thousands of men from the island of Ireland who, for many different reasons, left their homes and families to fight in the First World War and never returned”.

While Ireland has previously attended the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph, this is the first time in almost 70 years that the State has participated in the wreath-laying.

The last time it happened, in 1946, the Republic was still part of the Commonwealth.

The invitation builds on the successful State Visits of recent years — first of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland in 2011, and, this summer, Michael D Higgins’ return trip.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister have also been taking part in ceremonies in Dublin, Belfast and Enniskillen today.

Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Queen Elizabeth, senior royals and politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron also laid wreaths at the Cenotaph national war memorial in London, as hundreds of veterans from more than 70 years of conflicts looked on.

Security was tighter than normal amid heightened fears of the risk of a terror attack, but there was no change to the customary programme of marches and military music.

A 13-pounder World War I gun was fired at 1100 GMT, marking the start of two minute’s silence observed by millions of people across Britain and at British military bases across the world.

Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Source: AP/Press Association Images

Remembrance Sunday is the Sunday closest to Armistice Day on November 11, the anniversary of the 1918 signing of the peace that ended fighting in World War I.

The day has become a time to remember all the troops killed in wars since then.

Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Cameron said the ceremonies were “particularly poignant” as 2014 is the centenary of the start of World War I, as well as the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the end of Britain’s combat role in Afghanistan.

“Today we stand united to remember the courageous men and women who have served our country, defended our freedoms and kept us safe,” he said ahead of the event.

“We remember all those who have fallen and those who have risked their lives to protect us.”

Additional reporting, AFP.

Read: Senior Labour minister takes aim at Enda & Joan’s decision-making closed-shop

Read: Ceremonies remember the First World War’s fallen men and women

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