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Posted: 21 November 2007

Remembering the War Dead

From the 1920s the Office of Public Works has been responsible for the graves of those who died in the two World Wars and are buried and commemorated in the Republic of Ireland. There are at least 3,100 such war graves in the Republic of Ireland and some 2,600 in Northern Ireland.

The history of the 3,000 plus war dead buried in the Republic of Ireland, how they came to be there, and how the Irish Government came to be responsible for the graves is outlined in a new book, Remembering the War Dead, by Fergus D’Arcy, former Dean of Arts at University College Dublin, published by the Office of Public Works.

‘Many people are familiar with the OPW as the manager of the State’s property portfolio, its wide range of construction and engineering projects, and its management of the State’s heritage, along with the myriad of other functions that affect many aspects of the lives of the citizens and people of this country,’ said Noel Ahern TD, Minister of State at the Department of Finance, with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, who officially launched the book.

‘However, there are some functions that are little known to the general public and one of these is the Office’s responsibilities in the maintenance of the ‘Commonwealth War Grave sites’ of those who died as a result of the two great wars of the last century,’ he explained.

‘This book is unique in that it reflects the international nature of these graves that mark the resting places of people from over twenty different nations. The majority of these are Irish and Britons but it is important to also remember the other Europeans, North Americans, Australians, New Zealanders and Asians whose war graves also lie here,’ continued the Minister.

‘Drawing on hitherto unused archive sources, this work serves to highlight and document the circumstances in which the Irish Government accepted responsibility for the 3,000 plus graves of serving men, women and boys from over twenty different nations in all continents and shows how the OPW have discharged their duties over the last ninety years.’

Professor Fergus D’Arcy has lectured in modern history since 1970 and has published in the area of British and Irish political and social studies. His research interests lie in the areas of social history and popular culture.

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'The Cemetery, Etaples' - Sir John Lavery (RA RSA), 1919. © Imperial War Museum
'The Cemetery, Etaples' - Sir John Lavery (RA RSA), 1919. © Imperial War Museum