1916 Commemorations

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Easter Sunday: Ceremony at the General Post Office, Dublin 1

Parade Begins

To include Army, Navy, Aer Corps, UN Veterans, Gardai. Aer Corps fly past.


  • Parade departs from Dublin Castle via Dame Street

  • Parade arrives Westmoreland Street and halts.

  • Arrival of President at GPO

GPO Ceremony Begins

12.00 noon:

  • National Flag lowered on roof of G.P.O.

  • Army Officer reads Proclamation

  • Taoiseach invites President to lay a wreath

  • President lays a wreath

  • Minute’s silence observed in memory of all those who died

  • National Flag raised to full mast

  • National Anthem

Parade Continues

  • Parade continues through O’Connell Street on to Parnell Square



The Parade may be viewed as it passes through Dame Street, Westmoreland Street and O’Connell Street.

Large Screens will be placed at strategic locations along the route so that all aspects of the GPO Ceremony and Parade will be visible from individual locations

Battle of the Somme
Irish Soldiers in the First World War

Irish Soldiers in the Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme, whose 90th anniversary we commemorate this year, started on 1 July 1916 after an eight-day artillery bombardment of the German front lines. Despite 60,000 casualties in one day, no progress was made in the British sector and the battle continued until the following November when the weather intervened.  The total number of casualties in the Battle exceeded one million. This included the deaths of some 3,500 Irishmen from all parts of this island. However, to fully understand and do justice to the significance what happened at the Somme, we must look at the overall context of WW1 and its impact on Ireland and on the Irish participants

Irish Soldiers in the First World War

When the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip fired the shots that killed the heir to the Austrian crown Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife during their state visit to Sarajevo in June 1914, he started a chain of events that would directly affect Irish people in every part of Ireland and some of those living in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. The course of Irish history was greatly altered, leading to the emergence of forces that still influence the politics of today.  The increased awareness of the Irish aspects of the War have helped to put those forces to positive use by allowing people from the two major traditions to meet on common ground.

Ireland at the Outbreak of the War

By 1914, the political efforts to restore some form of self-government to the Ireland appeared to be achieving tangible results with the passing of the Home Rule Bill at Westminster. The prospects of a Dublin parliament had prompted the Unionist opposition to organise the Ulster Volunteer Force and to import 24,600 rifles and 3 million rounds of ammunition from Germany on 24-25 April, 1914. In response, the Nationalists formed the Irish Volunteers who also imported arms from Germany at Howth albeit only 900 rifles and 25,000 rounds. These unofficial armies openly exercised in military formations bearing arms and with many volunteers wearing their own uniforms.
Ireland has a strong military tradition. Even before the departure of the “Wild Geese” after the Treaty of Limerick, Irish soldiers had practised their profession abroad. The recent exhibition of prints by Albrecht Durer contained a watercolour of “Irish soldiers” from 1521.  Throughout the 19th century, the British Army in Ireland provided a convenient outlet for young men interested in soldiering. The country was divided into catchment areas for local regiments which offered regular income, attractive uniforms and the opportunity to travel abroad.  Others joined the British navy. Irish emigrants to the United States had won distinction on both sides in the Civil War. 
The new volunteer organisations and the Irish Citizen Army drew heavily on army veterans for organisational expertise and training.

Ireland goes to war.

When Great Britain declared war on August 4th, 1914, there were some 20,000 Irishmen already serving in the regular British Army with another 30,000 in the first line reserve. The total army strength was 247,000 with 145,000 ex-regular reservists. In contrast to the other major European powers, the British Army relied on volunteer soldiers rather than on National Service. Lord Kitchener, a serving officer who was made Secretary for War on August 5th, informed the Cabinet that it would be a three-year war requiring at least one million men. Thirty new divisions were formed into what became known as the New Armies or Kitchener’s Army.  The volunteers were assigned to new battalions of existing regiments of infantry which were given numbers following consecutively on the existing ones. [The word “Service” was added to the battalion number.]Typically, an infantry battalion consisted of 1,000 men. Following huge losses and a decline in volunteers, conscription was eventually introduced in January 1916. It was not applied to Ireland.
The Home Rule Bill was given the Royal Assent on the 18th September 1914 but its operation was suspended for one year or for the duration of the war when it would be reviewed with a view to securing the general consent of Ireland and the United Kingdom. On the 20th September, the leader of the Nationalist Party, John Redmond, who was widely expected to be the first Prime Minister of the new Irish Parliament, called on the Irish Volunteers to enlist. Irish soldiers in the British Expeditionary Force had already been in action in Flanders. The German advance through Belgium, the rumours of atrocities and refugees and the near capture of Paris had created an emotional atmosphere. The organisation split with those who followed Redmond being called the National Volunteers. About 12,000 of the 180,000 retained the Irish Volunteers title and set themselves the objective of gaining full independence for Ireland, by force if necessary.  The peaceful achievement of Home Rule was again in doubt due to the failure of the Government to deal with the build-up of arms in Northern Ireland and the public refusal of a cavalry brigade in the Curragh to enforce Home Rule Act if so requested.
About 80,000 enlisted in Ireland in the first 12 months of the war, some half of whom came from Ulster.  The First New Army of 100,000 soldiers, K1, contained the 10th (Irish) Division which was formed in late August, 1914. It had three brigades. One had regiments with bases in all four provinces. The second was based in Ulster and the third was based in the other three provinces.  The 16th (Irish ) Division of the Second New Army was formed in September, 1914. One brigade was from the province of Ulster. The 36th (Ulster) Division was authorised on the 28th October 1914. It was based on the formation and membership of the Ulster Volunteer Force to which a London based artillery unit was added. It contained men from all nine counties of Ulster. Redmond had sought have all Irish regiments organised into a single fighting unit.
Irishmen also joined Irish regiments such as the Irish Guards, the London (Irish), the Tyneside battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers and the 1st/8th (Irish) Kings Liverpool Regiment. Many also joined other English, Scottish and Welsh regiments, the Royal, Artillery, the Royal Flying Corps, the Medical Corps, the Army Service Corps, and the Royal Navy. Women served as nurses in the Voluntary Aid Detachment in the front line. Emigrants enlisted in the armies of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa and United States.
Those who went to fight could not have envisaged the changed world that would exist at the end of the War. The reasons for enlisting were as varied as the individuals. Some joined out of economic necessity. Others had the hope that the experience of serving side by side against a common enemy would forge friendships that would transcend the historic differences. Thomas Kettle, the former Nationalist MP for East Tyrone who served and was killed as a Lieutenant in the 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, believed that:
“Used with the wisdom which is sown in tears and blood, this tragedy of Europe may be and must be the prologue to the two reconciliations of which all statesmen have dreamed, the reconciliation of Protestant Ulster with Ireland, and the reconciliation of Ireland with Great Britain.”
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