National Day of Commemoration

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National Day of Commemoration
Official nameLá Cuimhneacháin Náisiúnta
Observed by Ireland
Datenearest Sunday to 11 July

In Ireland, the National Day of Commemoration (Irish : Lá Cuimhneacháin Náisiúnta) commemorates all Irish people who died in past wars or United Nations peacekeeping missions. [1] It occurs on the Sunday nearest 11 July (see Irish Calendar), the anniversary of the date in 1921 that a truce was signed ending the Irish War of Independence. [1] [fn 1] The principal ceremony is held at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, Ireland. [1]

Irish language Gaelic language spoken in Ireland and by Irish people

Irish is a Goidelic language of the Celtic languages family, itself a branch of the Indo-European language family. Irish originated in Ireland and was historically spoken by Irish people throughout Ireland. Irish is spoken as a first language in substantial areas of counties Galway, Kerry, Cork and Donegal, smaller areas of Waterford, Mayo and Meath, and a few other locations, and as a second language by a larger group of habitual but non-traditional speakers across the country.

Irish people Ethnic group, native to the island of Ireland, with shared history and culture

The Irish are a nation and ethnic group native to the island of Ireland, who share a common Irish ancestry, identity and culture. Ireland has been inhabited for about 12,500 years according to archaeological studies. For most of Ireland's recorded history, the Irish have been primarily a Gaelic people. From the 9th century, small numbers of Vikings settled in Ireland, becoming the Norse-Gaels. Anglo-Normans conquered parts of Ireland in the 12th century, while England's 16th/17th-century (re)conquest and colonisation of Ireland brought many English and Lowland Scots people to parts of the island, especially the north. Today, Ireland is made up of the Republic of Ireland and the smaller Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland hold various national identities including British, Irish, Northern Irish or some combination thereof.

Peacekeeping by the United Nations is a role held by the Department of Peace Operations as "a unique and dynamic instrument developed by the organization as a way to help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace". It is distinguished from peacebuilding, peacemaking, and peace enforcement although the United Nations does acknowledge that all activities are "mutually reinforcing" and that overlap between them is frequent in practice.



The commemoration of Irish soldiers and wars has been fragmented within Ireland for historical and political reasons.[ citation needed ]

Ceremonies to honour Irish soldiers who fought in the First World War have been held in Ireland in November on Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day since the war's end. These are mainly organised by the Royal British Legion and observed by Unionists [ citation needed ] and ex-servicemen and relatives. The focal points were St Patrick's Cathedral and the Irish National War Memorial Gardens, both in Dublin. Though many Irish nationalists served in the British Army prior to independence, this was not generally held in high esteem by later generations.[ citation needed ] Independent Ireland remained neutral in World War II, and although thousands of its citizens served in the allied armies, the state did not at first mark this. [fn 2]

Ireland and World War I

During World War I (1914–1918), Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which entered the war in August 1914 as one of the Entente Powers, along with France, and the Russia. In part as an effect of chain ganging, the UK decided due to geopolitical power issues to declare war on the Central Powers, consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and the Bulgaria.

Remembrance Sunday a day in the United Kingdom to honour those who served in the World Wars and future conflicts

Remembrance Sunday is held in the United Kingdom as a day "to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts". It is held at 11 a.m. on the second Sunday in November.

Remembrance Day memorial day on 11 November

Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Following a tradition inaugurated by King George V in 1919, the day is also marked by war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November in most countries to recall the end of hostilities of First World War on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month", in accordance with the armistice signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning. The First World War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.

Commemoration of the Irish War of Independence was muted by the bitterness of the Irish Civil War that followed from it. The preceding 1916 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland was the focus, with Easter Day considered the "National Day of Commemoration". [4] There was a major parade[ where? ] each Easter until 1971, when the Troubles in Northern Ireland made the commemoration of the earlier Irish Republican rebels more problematic in symbolism. [fn 3] [5] Smaller official commemorations persisted at Arbour Hill Prison. [6] [7]

Irish War of Independence Guerrilla war (1919–1921) between the IRA and British forces, ended by the Anglo-Irish Treaty

The Irish War of Independence or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought in Ireland from 1919 to 1921 between the Irish Republican Army and British forces: the British Army, along with the quasi-military Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and its paramilitary forces the Auxiliaries and Ulster Special Constabulary (USC). It was an escalation of the Irish revolutionary period into warfare.

Irish Civil War June 1922 - May 1923 war following the formation of the Irish Free State, between Irish Nationalists and Republicans

The Irish Civil War was a conflict that followed the Irish War of Independence and accompanied the establishment of the Irish Free State, an entity independent from the United Kingdom but within the British Empire.

Easter Rising Armed insurrection by Irish Republicans during Easter Week of 1916

The Easter Rising, also known as the Easter Rebellion, was an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week, April 1916. The Rising was launched by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in the First World War. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798, and the first armed action of the Irish revolutionary period. Sixteen of the Rising's leaders were executed in May 1916, but the insurrection, the nature of the executions, and subsequent political developments ultimately contributed to an increase in popular support for Irish independence.

Within the Defence Forces, a Commemoration Day for deceased former members is held on All Souls' Day, 2 November. [6] [8] 11 July, the anniversary of the 1921 truce, had already been a special Army holiday before being the base date for the National Day of Commemoration. [6]

Defence Forces (Ireland) combined military forces of Ireland

The Defence Forces, are the military of Ireland. They encompass the Army, Air Corps, Naval Service and Reserve Defence Forces.

All Souls Day feast day in some Christian denominations

In some Christian denominations, All Souls' Day or the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, that is, of the souls of all Christians who have died, follows All Saints' Day. Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day. In Western Christianity the annual celebration is held on 2 November and is associated with the season of Allhallowtide, including All Saints' Day and its vigil, Halloween. In the Catholic Church, "the faithful" refers specifically to baptized Catholics; "all souls" commemorates the church penitent of souls in Purgatory, whereas "all saints" commemorates the church triumphant of saints in Heaven. In the liturgical books of the western Catholic Church it is called the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, and is celebrated annually on 2 November. In the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, as well as in the Personal Ordinariates established by Benedict XVI for former Anglicans, it remains on 2 November if this date falls on a Sunday; in the 1962−1969 form of the Roman Rite, use of which is still authorized, it is transferred to Monday, 3 November. On this day in particular, Catholics pray for the dead. In the Church of England it is called The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed and is an optional celebration; Anglicans view All Souls' Day as an extension of the observance of All Saints' Day and it serves to "remember those who have died", in connection with the theological doctrines of the resurrection of the body and the Communion of Saints. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the associated Eastern Catholic Churches, it is celebrated several times during the year and is not associated with the month of November.


In 1974, the coalition government proposed Saint Patrick's Day as a day for commemorating all Irish people who had given their lives in wars, marked with a message from the President, prayer and a moment of silence. The Fianna Fáil opposition objected. [9] In the early 1980s, in response to the Northern Ireland Troubles, the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in County Wicklow was organising "Walks of Remembrance" around sites in Dublin significant to all historical combatants. [1] In 1983, the Irish Defence Forces were represented in the British Legion's Remembrance Sunday service in Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, under the flag of the United Nations. This was controversial and the Fianna Fáil opposition suggested a separate day of commemoration would be more inclusive. [9]

The 20th Dáil was elected at the 1973 general election on 28 February 1973 and first met on 14 March when the 14th Government of Ireland was appointed. The 20th Dáil lasted for 1,569 days.

Saint Patricks Day Cultural and religious holiday celebrated on 17 March

Saint Patrick's Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland.

Moment of silence period of silent contemplation, prayer, reflection, or meditation, often as a gesture of respect in mourning

A moment of silence is a period of silent contemplation, prayer, reflection, or meditation. Similar to flying a flag at half-mast, a moment of silence is often a gesture of respect, particularly in mourning for those who have died recently or as part of a tragic historical event.

An informal Oireachtas all-party committee was established in late 1984 to examine the question of a single National Day of Commemoration. [10] It held four meetings and reported to the government in October 1985. [11] The view of this Committee was that there should be a religious service and a military ceremony. This has been the tradition since, although Noel Treacy complained that the military presence was "on a small scale compared with that visualised by the all party committee". [12]

The first National Day of Commemoration was held on 13 July 1986 in the Garden of Remembrance. [1] [12] Old IRA veterans objected to the venue, which commemorates those who died in "the cause of Irish freedom", being used to honour British Army veterans. [1] The absence was noted of Leader of the Opposition, Charles Haughey, and Lord Mayor of Dublin, Bertie Ahern, both represented by subordinates. This was ascribed to discontent within Fianna Fáil about the event. [13]

Haughey became Taoiseach after the February 1987 election. He announced the commemoration ceremony would be replaced by separate church services by the various denominations, with no military or government presence. [14] The opposition parties objected, and both sides negotiated a compromise, [14] whereby the ceremony, and the commemorative plaque which had been unveiled in 1986 by President Patrick Hillery, were moved to the Royal Hospital. This, originally a British Army hospital, [1] is now the Irish Museum of Modern Art. However Irish Republicans and some IRA veterans of the Irish War of Independence objected to the presence of the British Legion at the ceremony. [1] Subsequent ceremonies have not proved controversial. [1]


One of the main recommendations made by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee was that the National Day of Commemoration should be organised in a way which would reflect its national importance, which would encourage people of different traditions to participate and which would attract the interest and support of the public. The current service and ceremonies closely follow these recommendations.

The military and religious ceremonies are held in the presence of the President, the Taoiseach and other members of the Government of Ireland, members of the Oireachtas, the Council of State, the Diplomatic Corps, the Judiciary, relatives of 1916 leaders, next-of-kin of those who died on service with the UN, Northern Ireland representatives and a wide cross-section of the community, including ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen.

Representatives of the three divisions of the Defence Forces parade and render military honours. Since its inception, music has been provided by the combined bands of the several Army Commands and Dr. Bernadette Greevy until her death in September 2008.

The ceremonies begin with an interfaith service, comprising prayers, hymns and readings by senior representatives of the main Christian denominations and of the Jewish and (since 1994 [15] ) Islamic faiths.

The military ceremonies include an honour guard of the Cadet School, the laying of a wreath by the President on behalf of the people of Ireland, Reveille, the raising of the national flag and the playing of the National Anthem.

The National Day of Commemoration is, along with Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, and Saint Patrick's Day, one of the days on which the Department of the Taoiseach's protocol section has advised all government buildings to fly the national flag. [16]

The main 2012 ceremony has been moved from the Royal Hospital Kilmainham to the Collins Barracks campus of the National Museum of Ireland, as the Kilmainham site is closed for renovation. [17] Regional ceremonies are planned for Sligo City Hall; Kilkenny Castle; NUI Galway; Fitzgerald's Park, Cork; Limerick City Hall; and Bishops Palace Museum, Waterford. [17]

The ceremony returned to the Royal Hospital in 2013.


  1. Due to fall on 12 July, the 1998 ceremony was moved to 5 July to avoid coinciding with the opening stage of the 1998 Tour de France. [2]
  2. In the 1990s the Office of Public Works renovated the Memorial Gardens and the state has supported subsequent Battle of the Somme commemorations held there by the British Legion. [3]
  3. The Easter parade was revived in 2006, after the Northern Ireland peace process. [5]

See also

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  14. 1 2 Coughlan, Denis (19 June 1987). "Lenihan to take over memorial day talks". The Irish Times. pp. 9 col.1.
  15. Cusack, Jim (11 July 1994). "National Day of Commemoration honours Irish who died in wars and serving with UN". The Irish Times. p. 3.
  16. Dáil debates 26 July 2004 7 July 2006
  17. 1 2 "2012 National Day of Commemoration Ceremony to be held in Collins Barracks". Government of Ireland. 3 July 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2012.