History of Irish National War Memorial Gardens

The Irish National War Memorial Gardens (GairdÁnÁ Náisiúnta Cuimhneacháin Cogaidh na hÉireann) is an Irish war memorial dedicated "to the memory of the 49,400 Irish soldiers who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914—1918", out of over 300,000 Irishmen who served in all armies.

The Memorial Gardens also commemorate all other Irish men and women who at that time served, fought and died in Irish regiments of the Allied armies, the British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African and United States armies in support of the Triple Entente's war effort against the Central Powers.

Memorial History

Following a meeting of over 100 representatives from all parts of Ireland on 17 July 1919, a Trust Fund was created to consider plans and designs for a permanent memorial "to commemorate all those Irish men and women killed in the First World War".

A General Committee was formed in November 1924 to pursue proposals for a site in Dublin. For technical and administrative reasons it was not until its meeting on 28 March 1927 in the Shelbourne Hotel that Merrion Square, alternatively St Stephen's Green were proposed.

A debate in the Free State Senate failed to resolve the impasse. W.T. Cosgrave , president of the Irish Free State Executive Council then appointed Cecil Lavery to set up a "War Memorial Committee" to advance the memorial process.

Cosgrave who was very interested in bringing the Memorial to fruition met with Sir Andrew Jameson, a Senator and member of the Committee on 9 December 1930 and suggested the present site. At that time known as the "Longmeadows Estates" it is about 60 acres (20 hectares) in extent stretching parallel along the south bank of the River Liffey from Islandbridge towards Chapelizod. His proposal was adopted by the Committee on 16 December 1931. 

Cosgrave said at the time ". . . this is a big question of Remembrance and Honour to the dead and it must always be a matter of interest to the head of the Government to see that a project so dear to a big section of the citizens should be a success".

Major-General William Hickie saying "the Memorial is an All-Ireland one". 

In the adverse political conditions of the 1930s the Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera's government still recognised the motives of the Memorial and made valuable state contributions to it. The cabinet approved wording in English and Irish. Many difficulties arose in 1937 for the WM Committee with regard to plants, trees and the need to obtain a Completion Certificate from the OPW, which finally issued in January 1938. Before any official opening could be announced the threat of war in Europe complicated matters further. A meeting with the Taoiseach 10 May 1939 discussed postponing the suggested opening on the last Sunday in July. The Second World War then intervened to delay this further.

The Design

Designed by the great memorialist Sir Edwin Lutyens who had already landscaped designed several sites in Ireland and around Europe. He found it a glorious site. The sunken Garden of Remembrance surrounds a "War Stone" of Irish granite symbolising an altar, which weighs seven and a half tons. The dimensions of this are identical to First World War memorials found throughout the world, and is aligned with the Great Cross of Sacrifice and central avenue.

Opposite to the Phoenix Park obelisk, it lies about three kilometres from the centre of Dublin, on grounds which gradually slope upwards towards Kilmainham Hill. Old chronicles describe Kilmainham Hill as the camping place of Brian Boru and his army prior to the last decisive Battle of Clontarf on 23 April 1014. The Memorial was probably the last to be erected to the memory of those who sacrificed their lives in World War I, and is one of the finest if not the best in the world “the symbol of Remembrance in memory of a Nation’s sacrifice”. The elaborate layout includes a central Sunken Rose Garden composed by a committee of eminent horticulturalists, various terraces, pergolas, lawns and avenues lined with impressive parkland tress, and two pairs of Bookrooms in granite, representing the four provinces of Ireland, and containing illuminated volumes recording the names of all the dead.


The first real, fully official "opening and dedication" took place with a state commemoration to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 2006, attended by the President of Ireland Mary McAleese, the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Members of the Oireachtas, leading representatives of all political parties in Ireland, the Diplomatic Corps of the Allies of World War I, delegates from Northern Ireland, representatives of the four main Churches, and solemnly accompanied by a Guard of Honour of the Irish Army and Army Band.

Rolls of Honour

In the granite paved pergolas surrounding the Garden are illuminated Volumes recording the names of all the dead, and were once publicly accessible, although the threat of vandalism has now had these Bookrooms closed except for visits by appointment, and which can be digitally viewed in an onsite office. A wooden cross, the Ginchy Cross, built by the 16th (Irish) Division and originally erected on the Somme to commemorate 4,354 men of the 16th who died in two engagements, is housed in the same building. Three granite replicas of this cross are erected at locations liberated by Irish divisions - Guillemont and Messines-Wytschaete in Belgium, and Salonica in Macedonia.

Map of the Location

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