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Monday, 4th November 2019

Remembrance ceremony in need of a rethink

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The annual remembrance ceremony for the local men and women who lost their lives on various battlefields and in the service of others took place at the Drogheda War Memorial at the bottom of Mary Street last Saturday morning.

This event draws less and less people with each passing year and perhaps it is time to have a rethink about it.

The Drogheda monument was paid for with public subscriptions and built in 1925. Commemorations took place there every year until 1969 when they were stopped due to the troubles in Northern Ireland. They only recommenced in 1999.

Unfortunately, in the past 20 years the ceremony has become somewhat formulaic – people gather, the clergy say a few prayers, wreathes are laid, the last post is played and then everyone goes home.

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Whatever you may think about Irish people fighting in an English army, surely the local men and women who died alone far from home in the mud of a battlefield, deserve more.

These people were doing what people all over the world were doing at the time – fighting to defend the freedoms and the democracy that are enjoyed by millions of people in the world to this day.

Democracy may be going through something of a wobble in some parts of the world and there are still many millions living in repressive states so you could say this is unfinished business.

Speaking to people after Saturday’s ceremony it seems that there is a desire for change with regard to the remembrance ceremony.

One suggestion was that the monument itself be moved from its present location beside the busy junction of Mary Street and the Dublin Road and installed instead at the square in Millmount.

This seems to me eminently sensible idea as it would be a more fitting venue. Also the people gathered could perhaps be given a cup of tea in the museum where they could also learn more about the Drogheda people whose names are on the cenotaph monument. On Saturday when the event was over people just went home – some of them with a drive to Dublin, Belfast or further afield ahead of them, without so much as a by your leave.

Each year one of our excellent local historians could give a talk with some background information on one of the fallen. This would make it more interesting and accessible to people who are put off by the flags and wreathes of the current ceremony.

Another good idea was that school groups should be encouraged to attend – a quick look at the names engraved on the plaques will tell you that they are all Drogheda names. Which of course means that there are schoolchildren in Drogheda today with long-dead relatives mentioned that they may not even know about.

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