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Commemorations in Ireland and abroad mark centenary of the end of World War I

The First World War officially ended at 11am on 11 November 1918.

Image: Benoit Tessier

Updated Nov 11th 2018, 4:30 PM

COMMEMORATIONS MARKING THE end of World War One have taken place across Ireland and around the world today. 

A moment’s silence was held this morning to recognise all those who died in the war. The First World War officially ended at 11am on 11 November 1918.

President-elect Michael D Higgins spoke at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin this morning where he said that Irish people now have a greater understanding of our own part in the global conflict.

He told the gathered crowd: “For many years, there was an uncertainty, even a reticence, to recognise the human reality of the First World War, and those who fought and died in it. In our public history, the reticence was reflected by a form of official amnesia that left a blank space in our public memory.

“That has now changed, as citizens across our island have begun to discover a greater – and perhaps too long-delayed – insight into the experience of their grandparents, great-grandparents and neighbours. With this excavation of the past we have a far greater understanding of the motivation of those who enlisted in the war effort, and a better appreciation of the experience of the war, not only for those in uniform, but for civilians.”

president 062_90558334 President Micahel D Higgins at the Armistice day Centenary Commemorations ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetery Source: Sam Boal

GLASNEVIN 990_90558330 Pictured veterans at the Armistice Day Centenary Commemorations ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetery Source: Sam Boal

GLASNEVIN 861_90558341 Irish Army Soldiers arrive at the Armistice day Centenary Commemorations ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetery Source: Sam Boal

Over 35,000 Irish soldiers died during the war. Over ten million in total died between 1914 to 1918. 

Events are also taking place in Cork, Sligo, Kilkenny and Wicklow this morning as well as some smaller events dotted across the country.

World

France WWI Centennial French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Donald Trump attend a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day Source: Benoit Tessier via PA Images

World leaders gathered in the rain in Paris to mark 100 years since the end of World War I, with host Emmanuel Macron warning against nationalism at a time of growing strain between Europe and Donald Trump’s America.

Around 70 leaders including US President Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin marked the centenary of the 1918 Armistice in the French capital.

After church bells rang out across France, the leaders sat together at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe for a memorial that included a performance by star cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the reading aloud of letters by WWI soldiers.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attended the ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe to represent Ireland “on this important world occasion”. 

After the ceremony, Varadkar took to social media to reflect on the day saying it was “a recognition by the people gathered here, that we must make sure that war never happens again”. 

Varadkar will return to Dublin for Michael D Higgins’ inauguration this evening. 

After the ceremony, Macron delivered a 20-minute speech that called on his fellow leaders not to forget the lessons of the past and worldwide hopes for peace.

“Ruining this hope with a fascination for isolation, violence or domination would be a mistake for which future generations would rightly find us responsible,” Macron told them.

He also delivered a stinging indictment of nationalism, calling it “the exact opposite” of the patriotism shown by soldiers.

“Nationalism is a betrayal,” he said.

“By saying our interests come first and others don’t matter we are erasing what makes a nation precious, what makes it live, what makes it great and most importantly of all, its moral values,” he said, watched by Trump, who prides himself on being called a nationalist.

The service concluded with the bugle call that was played at 11am on 11 November, 1918 to signal the end of fighting on the Western Front.

REMEMBRANCE DAY CANBERRA Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison lays a wreath during Remembrance Day at the Australian War Memorial, in Canberra. Source: AAP/PA Images

Elsewhere, ceremonies in New Zealand, Australia, India, Hong Kong and Myanmar began a day of remembrance services around the world for a conflict that involved millions of troops from colonised countries in Asia and Africa.

The leaders of Commonwealth nations – whose forces were deployed under British command 100 years ago – also delivered messages of peace.

“This was a war in which India was not directly involved yet our soldiers fought world over, just for the cause of peace,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.

“For our tomorrows, they gave their today,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told people gathered at a ceremony in Canberra.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Prince Charles, standing in for Queen Elizabeth, attended a separate remembrance event in London where thousands of well-wishers also paid their respects to fallen soldiers.

‘A world of rules’ 

In Paris, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was is to give the opening address alongside UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a peace conference following the memorial service on the Champs-Elysees.

The Paris Peace Forum, conceived by Macron, is intended to highlight the importance of international institutions in helping resolve conflicts, avert wars and spread prosperity.

“The aim of the forum is to show that there are lots of forces in the international system — states, NGOs, foundations, intellectuals, companies -  who believe we need a world of rules, an open world and a multilateral world,” chief organiser Justin Vaisse told AFP.

Despite the show of unity at the Arc de Triomphe, tensions lurk beneath the surface.

Trump, whose hardline nationalism has badly shaken the Western alliance, arrived in Paris on Friday criticising host Macron for being “insulting”.

Trump took umbrage at a recent interview in which Macron talked about the need for a European army and cited the US, along with Russia and China, as potential security risks.

During talks with Trump Saturday Macron said his remarks had been misinterpreted and that he was merely saying Europe needed to take greater ownership of its own security.

The “America First” leader, who faced criticism on Saturday for cancelling a trip to an American cemetery because of rainy weather, will snub the Peace Forum.

A day of remembrance 

France WWI Centennial People react in front of a large inflatable blimp depicting President Donald Trump in Republique square in Paris Source: Vadim Ghirda

Other notable attendees of today’s Paris memorial service and Forum included Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Canadian premier Justin Trudeau and Israel’s Benyamin Netanyahu.

Despite maximum security in a city repeatedly targeted by jihadists since 2015, a protester from the radical feminist group Femen managed to jump over a barricade and got within metres of Trump’s motorcade as he made his way up the Champs-Elysees.

She was hauled away by security along with two others who were stopped on the edge of the famous avenue.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner later said Trump’s security had “in no way been threatened”.

About 70 current-day nations were involved in WWI, which had six empires and colonial powers at its heart: Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

Around 10 million soldiers are estimated to have been killed during the fighting and more than double that number wounded.

Between five and 10 million civilians are estimated to have been killed.

With additional reporting from Garreth MacNamee and AFP 

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Adam Daly

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