31 October 2002 Edition

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Meehan visits war grave

Last weekend, Ardoyne republican Martin Meehan travelled to France to visit the grave of his late grandfather, who was killed in the First World War.

Meehan's grandfather fought with the Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers was 36 when he was one of those killed by mustard gas. He left behind nine children. when he was killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 is buried in a French war cemetery.

Meehan told An Phoblacht that it was important for republicans to acknowledge that many Irishmen fought in the British Army believing it would serve the cause of Ireland.

It was the first time any of the Meehan family had visited the grave. "I laid a wreath at my grandfather's grave. It's amazing; until a few years ago we did not know where he was buried and it is important that we came here today and paid our respects to his memory because there are thousands of nationalists in the same position whose loved ones are buried here," said Meehan.

"In 1914 the British government persuaded many Irish nationalists to fight in the British Army on the battlefields of Europe in the belief that Home Rule would be granted.

"Many unionists fought and died in the belief that the Union would be preserved.

"In the end, thousands of Irishmen, both Catholic and Protestant, nationalist and unionist, were senselessly slaughtered. In reality, it was only the British imperialist interest that benefited."

"Even in death, class was an issue, as you can see from the graves themselves. The private's headstones are huddled together, while the officers are buried in separate plots," said Meehan.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1