RTÉ is proud to remember the contribution of Irishmen in the Great War. For too long the contribution and human sacrifice of Irishmen in the Great War was obscured by a nationalist fog. Ninety years after the ending of the War it is timely that we look again and try to understand better Ireland’s role.
The day after the first shot was fired on 22nd August 1914, it was an Irishman, Lt. Maurice Dease from Mullingar serving in the Royal Fusiliers, who attempted to stop the German advance into the city of Mons with his machine gun unit. He died fighting and was awarded the first posthumous Victoria Cross of the Great War.
From 1914 to 1918 some 350,000 Irishmen from the island of Ireland and from many parts of the world participated in the Great War that destroyed much of Europe and cost so many lives. The motivations of Irish servicemen greatly varied; some simply needed the pay, others believed in the nobility of war, while others believed the cause just. But while reasons for being there may have varied, the common human tragedy of the more than 30,000 lives lost to Ireland should be remembered and better understood.
RTÉ is marking the 90th anniversary of the end of the Great War with a variety of programming, events and features across all of RTÉ’s services. I very much hope you will be moved by and learn more about these brave Irishmen. As President Mary McAleese said in Belgium in 1998:
“These too are Ireland’s children as those who fought for her independence are her children, and those who fought against each other in our country’s civil war - and of course the dead of recent decades - their children’s children - who have not known the peace for which they yearned. To each let us give his or her acknowledged place among our island’s cherished dead.”
Cathal Goan, Director-General, RTÉ