Peace and Reconciliation
Having more than a passing interest in history and having wanted for some time to visit the beautiful Glencree in County Wicklow, I finally managed to realise my dream. The Centre for Peace and Reconciliation was alas closed owing to the Pandemic but in close proximity is another symbol to the need for peace and reconciliation. Blessed with good weather I arrived at my destination in anticipation of seeing in person the final resting place of people who died while serving for Germany in past Word Wars. Ireland was their final resting place. Standing in that place or walking amongst the spaced crosses brought home to me the awful reality that war is not a celluloid celebration of technological inventiveness but about tragedy. Ireland’s connection is not just that these people lie in Irish soil but equally that many from Ireland, sons and daughters, lie on foreign soil.
The stories of the many that lie here have been recorded for posterity. Soldiers of different rank from different backgrounds share this beautiful place. I am reminded of the many attempts by our ancestors to seek salvation with assistance from overseas. France, Spain and Germany can be counted in the trawl of historical archives that we call insurrection. The statistics of the many Irish who died particularly in the First Word War from both traditions on the island of Ireland are equally well versed. The people who lie here for the most part prisoners were pilots who crash landed or mariners who were swept ashore onto our beaches; some dating back to the First World War.
So, perhaps in the paradoxical reality that is war there is a commonality that is… the universal folly of madness. Many of us on this island have memories of past struggles, fighting in wars not of our making, with relatives who still live with us, at least in our hearts. Here, in this place there is serenity, peace and tranquillity. Marching to a different tune we are all equally concerned with life and all its machinations, contradictions, disasters and distractions. There are many crosses carried over centuries, in many cases there are none, all victims to the brutality of manipulative realism. We share a history with people everywhere that have fallen victim to the tragedy of history.
I hope these people found peace resting in the shade of Wicklow’s beauty on the shamrock shore. There are no victors, there are only victims, an oft quoted line but still all too familiar alas.
I lie here in the cold rain and setting sun
My heart forlorn my race is run
Captive in the soil that is not mine
Passing strangers seek out my universal sign
In the no-man’s land of broken limbs
I cry to kingdom to come forgive my sins
For Fatherland or victory I did not ask
My youth a passing moment is long since past
Fallen heroes, bells proclaim our sadness
The theatre of hell announces humanities madness
On the pages are the sages who seek eternal fame
But here lie the multitudes of martyrs, the deaf, and the lame
Nothing and everything I would have sought
The assembled cheering mob was all for nought
No passions won no waiting rose was mine
In the cradle of fallen comrades I die a thousand times
- Antóin Ó Lochraigh