25th anniversary of the Island of Ireland Peace Park
Press release03 November 2023
The Mayor and the Town Council of Messines, the Embassy of Ireland, the Embassy of the United Kingdom and the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels announce a ceremony to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Island of Ireland Peace Park.
On 11 November 2023, at 15:00, a ceremony opened to the public will be held at the site of the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines, Belgium. The ceremony will commemorate its inauguration on Armistice Day of 1998 as a symbol of peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland, following the conclusion of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in April of the same year.
A joint British military and Irish Defence Forces band will provide music at the ceremony, recalling the joint military band that performed in 1998. The ceremony will be followed by the unveiling of the Pillars of Peace project in nearby Messines Town Square. There will also be representatives from Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Ireland, North and South from a youth programme who are preparing a new peace pledge to be presented as part of the 25th anniversary commemorations.
The government of Ireland will be represented by Minister for Education, Ms Norma Foley TD. The government of the United Kingdom will be represented by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Lord Caine. The Northern Ireland Executive will be represented by the Head of the Civil Service, Jayne Brady.
The Mayor of Messines, Sandy Evrard, said:
“We are here thanks to the hard work of two extraordinary people: Glen Barr and Paddy Harte put Messines on the map with this memorial site, this symbol of reconciliation and peace. 25 years later, this site is a World Heritage Site. We are therefore very grateful to them. This commemoration, and the unveiling of the Pillars on Peace, is another historic event for Messines. We are delighted to share this moment with Glen and Paddy's family.”
British Ambassador to Belgium, Martin Shearman, said:
“The Island of Ireland Peace Park is a special place. It honours the bravery and sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the First World War while demonstrating the importance of reconciliation to peace and a better future. That is a crucial message, which resonates as strongly today as it did when the Peace Park was inaugurated 25 years ago.”
Irish Ambassador to Belgium, Kevin Conmy, said:
“For 25 years, the Island of Ireland Peace Park has been an inspirational place representing the spirit of reconciliation that brought about peace through the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. This ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the Peace Park is an opportunity to renew that spirit of reconciliation and share it with the next generation.”
Director of the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels, Aodhán Connolly, said:
“The Island of Ireland Peace Park has been a source of inspiration for 25 years, and this commemoration plays tribute to Paddy Harte and Glenn Barr, and their hard work to establish the Peace Park, as well as the people of Messines, who have embraced it in their city. As we commemorate the establishment of the park it has been wonderful to bring young people here from across the world to breathe new life into the peace pledge and capture what Peace means for them and for the future.”
15.00 25th Anniversary Ceremony and wreath laying at Island of Ireland Peace Park,
Chau. d'Armentières, 8957 Messines
16.30 Unveiling of the Pillars of Peace, Markt 1, 8957 Messines
The Island of Ireland Peace Park was inaugurated in 1998 by Irish President Mary McAleese, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Their Majesties King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians. It is a memorial to the over 200,000 soldiers from the island of Ireland that fought with the British Army in World War I and the estimated 35,000 that lost their lives, many in the areas surrounding Ieper and Messines. The Peace Park is located close to the site of the June 1917 battle of Messines Ridge, during which the 16th (Irish) Division fought alongside the 36th (Ulster) Division. The Peace Park and the replica of an Irish round tower it contains came about through the determination and inspiration of Paddy Harte, from Donegal, and Glen Barr, from Derry, whose relatives will be in attendance at the 25th anniversary ceremony. The Island of Ireland Peace Park has become an established part of the visitor commemorative trail across the Flanders Fields and is visited by many thousands of people each year.
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