Remembrance ceremony at the Glasnevin Cemetery honoring the people of Ireland who served in France and in particular Peter Paul McSwiney, Lord Mayor of Dublin and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur

On 14 July, France’s National Day, Ambassador of France to Ireland Stéphane Crouzat and Chairman of Glasnevin Trust David Bunworth hosted a wreath laying ceremony at the Glasnevin cemetery in honor of the people of Ireland who served in France during the War of 1870, the First and Second World Wars, and in particular to Peter Paul McSwiney (1810-1884), twice Lord Mayor of Dublin and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

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Wreaths were laid by French Ambassador Stéphane Crouzat, British Ambassador Robin Barnett and German deputy Head of Mission Nancy Reck at the France-Ireland monument erected in 2016, one century after the battle of the Somme, where thousands of Irish soldiers died. Homage was then paid to Peter Paul McSwiney at his grave, where a plaque in his honor was unveiled and wreaths were laid.

Peter Paul McSwiney (1810-1884) was a successful Dublin businessman who was twice elected Lord Mayor of his city. His name is still associated with Dublin landmarks: he founded Clery’s department store (originally called McSwiney, Delaney and Co.), laid the foundation stone for the memorial round tower in Glasnevin Cemetery in honour of his uncle, the Liberator, Daniel O’Connell, and proposed the erection on Dublin’s main thoroughfare of a monument to O’Connell.

He was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, while on an official visit to France, by Napoléon III, for his work in helping to organise a public collection in Ireland to help France repay its war debts following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. McSwiney’s work here is one of the countless largely forgotten examples of Irish solidarity with the French during and after that war. In fact, the Franco-Prussian War captured the imagination of people throughout Ireland at the time, from major cities to small villages in ’l’Irlande profonde’. These people had not forgotten French support and generosity to them during the catastrophic Great Famine just one generation earlier in the 1840s. This resulted in a massive humanitarian fundraising campaign throughout Ireland which resulted in vast amounts of money, food and clothing being collected and sent to France for use by peasants and soldiers in their hour of need.

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This ceremony was part of an ongoing project by the French Embassy and Glasnevin Trust to honor, and sometimes rediscover, Irish heroes buried at Glasnevin who received the Légion d’Honneur

Two years ago, a plaque was unveiled at the grave of Michael McWhite, who joined the French Foreign Legion during WWI and fought in France, Greece and Turkey, was wounded at Gallipoli and was awarded the Croix de Guerre three times for bravery in combat, received the Légion d’Honneur and embarked on a career as a distinguished diplomat for the Irish Free state. Last year, James Fitzgerald Lombard was honored. He was instrumental in the creation of the Irish Ambulance Corps during the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, sending over 250 men to France, and thus saving countless lives by caring for the wounded. After the war, he was awarded with the Officier de la Légion d’Honneur.

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Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin Mary Callaghan said “I’m delighted to attend this remembrance ceremony honoring the people of Ireland who served in France, and in particular a man who was twice Lord Mayor of Dublin, Peter Paul McSwiney. The city of Dublin is proud to honor the memory of a man that embodied the true spirit of Franco-Irish friendship”

Ambassador Stéphane Crouzat declared “Glasnevin is the resting place of many Irish heroes whose bravery on the battlefield was recognized by France and who are thus recipients of the Légion d’Honneur. With Glasnevin Trust we have embarked on a project of honoring - and sometimes rediscovering - these heroes. Every year we aim to walk through the alleys of this magnificent cemetery to unveil new plaques in their honor, recognizing the distinction they received from the French Government”.

Reflecting on the significance of today’s event was Mr. David Bunworth, Chairman of Glasnevin Trust: “Today, we remember all those who served and all who died in France during the War of 1870, the First and Second World Wars. Here in Glasnevin we especially remember all the men and women from this island who unselfishly offered their service and in many cases their lives, many of whom are buried here in Glasnevin Cemetery. We remember great people from our country’s past such as Peter Paul McSwiney, who received the Légion d’Honneur, for his work in helping to organise a public collection in Ireland to help France repay its war debts.”

Remembrance ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery
14 July 2020
Address by H.E. Stéphane Crouzat,
Ambassador of France to Ireland

Lord Mayor of Dublin,
Chairman,
Excellencies,
Dear friends,

On France’s National Day Bastille Day, we are gathered today in front of the France-Ireland monument for this remembrance ceremony commemorating the Irish heroes who fought in France during three wars : the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, the First and the Second World Wars.

The monument before us was inaugurated in 2016, one century after the battle of the Somme, where thousands of Irish soldiers died.

Glasnevin is the resting place of many Irish heroes whose bravery on the battlefield was recognized by France and who are thus recipients of the Légion d’Honneur.

With Glasnevin Trust we have embarked on a project of honoring - and sometimes rediscovering - these heroes. Every year we aim to walk through the alleys of this magnificient cemetery to unveil new plaques in their honor, recognizing the distinction they received from the French Government.

Two years ago we unveiled a plaque at the grave of Michael McWhite, who joined the French Foreign Legion during WWI and fought in France, Greece and Turkey, was wounded at Gallipoli and was awarded the Croix de Guerre three times for bravery in combat, received the Légion d’Honneur and embarked on a career as a distinguished diplomat for the Irish Free state.

Last year we paid special tribute to another Irish hero buried at Glasnevin cemetery, James Fitzgerald Lombard. He was instrumental in the creation of the Irish Ambulance Corps during the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, sending over 250 men to France, and thus saving countless lives by caring for the wounded. After the war, he was awarded with the Officier de la Légion d’Honneur.

And in a moment we will go to the grave of Peter Paul McSwiney, who was twice Lord Mayor of Dublin and was made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by Napoleon III for his work in helping to organise a public collection in Ireland to help France repay its war debts following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. McSwiney’s work is one of the many examples of Irish solidarity with the French during and after that war.

These heroes have now passed to posterity, and their legacy endures. They embody the true spirit of Franco-Irish friendship, a friendship forged in tears and blood, but also nurtured in peace and hope, bonded as we are in a common future.

Maréchal Foch had powerful words for the Irish, words that are written on this monument : “Some of the flower of Irish chivalry rests in the cemeteries that have been reserved in France, and the French people will always have these reminders of the debt that France owes to Irish valour. We shall always see that the graves of these heroes from across the sea are lovingly tended, and we shall try to ensure that the generations that come after us shall never forget the heroic dead of Ireland.”

With Glasnevin Trust and thanks to your presence here today, we humbly do our part in this effort to never forget./.

Published on 15/07/2020

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