Britain’s Irish ambassador, Dan Mulhall, is in Dublin for the unveiling of the Cross of Sacrifice in Glasnevin Cemetery later today.
He spoke on BBC’s Today Radio 4 this morning about the importance of commemorating World War I a century on, and how it has become possible due to improved relations between the two countries.
“The fact that it has taken so long is a reflection of the complicated history of our islands and also the understandable focus on our own national history which is commemorated very strongly at Glasnevin,” he said.
“But the timing is now to do with an improved relationship between our two countries following the Queen’s state visit to Ireland and our President’s visit to Britain this year.
“There is a general willingness on the part on both countries to regard our histories as a positive connection between us, it doesn’t have to be a negative one or contentious.
“The unveiling of the monument is an important symbolic reflection of improved Irish-British relations and the changing Irish attitudes towards the first world war.”
Ambassador Mulhall went on to speak of the estimated 50,000 Irish people who were killed in the world war, and how they had fought not only in British regiments, but for the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“All these things are positive in today’s world, so we can look back to a century ago with a calm eye and see how Ireland played a significant role in the British war effort,” he added.
“No-one could have imagined so many Irish volunteered, there was no conscription in Ireland. Therefore the number of Irish people involved is equivalent to those who fought from Britain.”
The full interview can be found from 2:49:00 in this clip.