26 February 2015
PM's Special Rep goes on battlefield tour with schools
Dr Andrew Murrison, government minister and David Cameron's Special Representative for the Commemoration of the Centenary of the First World War will be travelling to France and Belgium this weekend to take part in the programme of battlefield tours that he was instrumental in setting up for schools.
Students from Clarendon School Trowbridge in Andrew's constituency will be on the tour together with others from Bristol and the west of England.
The programme, which is funded jointly by the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government, aims to get students and teachers from every maintained school in England to the battlefields over the four year centenary period and to prompt a deeper understanding of the war. It is being run by the highly respected Institute of Education.
"Battlefield tours are highly impactful, particularly for young people who are comparable in age to the young men involved a century ago and who, in so many cases, remain where they fought.
"The programme encourages a more profound understanding of the period among today's young people, particularly of the causes, conduct and consequences of this seminal moment in modern history.
10 February 2015
MP’s poppy ball
Andrew Murrison met constituent John Carmichael at his constituency office in Trowbridge on Friday to discuss the role of football in promoting peace and marking the centenary of the Great War for which Andrew is the PM’s Special Representative.
Mr Carmichael is active in international development, particularly in Africa, and is involved with the National Children’s Football Alliance as it seeks to use football for positive social ends.
“Football is a common, unifying language even in the darkest of situations as we saw in the Christmas Truce of 1914. It’s right that it is playing a significant role in commemorating the centenary of the Great War.”
28 January 2015
MP to meet with Moroccan Delegation
On Thursday Dr Andrew Murrison MP will meet with a delegation of Moroccan parliamentarians and Elders of the Moroccan community in the Council Chamber at The Civic Centre, St Stephen’s Place, Trowbridge at 2.30pm.
16 January 2015
Murrison: No more onshore wind farms
Local MP Andrew Murrison has condemned Labour and the Lib Dems for planning thousands more publicly subsidised wind turbines. The south west Wiltshire MP and minister is a long term opponent of onshore wind farms and has been involved in a number of successful protests against them.
The plans that are causing him concern emerged after one of Britain’s biggest wind farm companies revealed that in private discussions senior Labour and Liberal Democrat figures have given ‘very strong support for onshore wind in one-to-one conversations’.
In contrast, the Conservative party would end the public subsidy for newly planned onshore wind farms in the UK. They want onshore wind farm applications in England and Wales determined through the locally-led planning system and not the national infrastructure regime. The government has already changed planning rules in England to give greater protection for landscape and heritage and wants to go further and amend planning policy in England to give even greater protection to locally valued landscape, heritage and other local concerns.
Dr Murrison commented:
“Labour and the Lib Dem are apparently planning an expansion of onshore wind farms that will do very little to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels whilst blighting what remains of the countryside and consuming public subsidy.
“Now that we have enough onshore wind power to meet our renewables target we should be ending tax payer funded subsidies for newly planned projects and give local communities the decisive say on them.
“Any public resources for renewables should be used for more promising means of generating energy sustainably than onshore wind farms.
15 January 2015
MP at First World War Exhibition
On Friday at 10am Dr Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for the Centenary Commemoration of the First World War will drop by and visit the Warminster Town Council’s First World War Exhibition in the Civic Centre, Sambourne Road, Warminster BA12 8LB.
15 January 2015
Andrew Murrison MP signs Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment
Yesterday (Wednesday) Andrew Murrison signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people.
Tuesday 27th January will mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.
In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.
Dr Murrison commented:
“Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – and is an important opportunity to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and make sure they are not forgotten. I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join members of my community in the fight against prejudice and intolerance.”
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:
“We are proud that Dr Murrison is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day. As we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust and the liberation of the concentration camps in 2015, it is vitally important that we both continue to remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge antisemitism and all forms of bigotry.
4 December 2014
MP discusses traffic issues in Chitterne
On Friday at 11am Dr Andrew Murrison MP will be in The Shrewton Road area of Chitterne BA12 0LW. Andrew will be discussing the traffic issues experienced by Chitterne residents with the Parish Council and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon.
27 November 2014
MP’s lunch date
Andrew Murrison has been invited by the children of Westbury Infants School to enjoy lunch with them on Friday and attend their school assembly which will include an announcement of school council election results.
14 November 2014
MP speaking at 25th Anniversary lunch
Dr Murrison will be speaking at the West Wiltshire Rail Users Group (WWRUG) lunch being held on Saturday at 12.30pm at The Old Manor Hotel, Trowle in Trowbridge.
The WWRUG will be celebrating their 25th Anniversary of campaigning for improved rail services and facilities serving the seven west Wiltshire Stations.
11 November 2014
Dr Andrew Murrison MP backs local business in 10th annual “Rural Oscars”
The Countryside Alliance Awards, aka the “Rural Oscars,” are celebrating their 10th anniversary with a special Champion of Champions scheme. Andrew Murrison MP is urging the public to support Ludwell Village Stores in November’s public vote as it bids to be crowned the best of the best.
Ludwell Village Stores previously won a UK & Ireland title in the Awards, making them eligible for the Champion of Champions scheme. The scheme is reliant on a public vote which will be open throughout November. The businesses with the most votes will walk away with top honours at a Parliamentary reception in February.
The Countryside Alliance Awards, nicknamed the ‘Rural Oscars,’ were borne of a need to support and promote rural communities and businesses and have become the rural award to win. The Champion of Champions scheme sees ten years’ worth of business and community heroes come back together to compete again.
Andrew Murrison commented:
“The Rural Oscars give a great platform to our rural businesses and communities and I am proud to support them. I am keen to see Ludwell Village Stores take the title and would ask that everyone in the constituency gets behind their bid and votes throughout November.”
MP to open Doctor’s surgery room
On Friday at 12.20pm Andrew Murrison will be at Maiden Bradley Memorial Hall where he will be opening the newly installed Doctor’s Surgery Room in the High Street, BA12 7JG.
6 November 2014
MP to visit Sandroyd
Andrew Murrison will visit Sandroyd School Rushmore in Tollard Royal near Salisbury SP5 5QD on Friday at 10.30am. Andrew will be talking to children about his role of an MP and answering questions based around rural issues.
27 October 2014
First World War funding for heritage projects available for communities
Dr Andrew Murrison MP urges local South West Wiltshire communities to apply for National Lottery money available to mark the Centenary
On Wednesday 22nd October, Dr Andrew Murrison MP for South West Wiltshire sponsored and spoke at a House of Commons event hosted by TV historian Dan Snow, to find out how people from his constituency can secure Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) money to help them mark the Centenary of the First World War.
The event showcased just a handful of over 1000 First World War projects taking place across the UK, thanks to more than £60million of investment from HLF.
Grants of between £3,000 to £10,000 will continue to be available throughout the Centenary through HLF’s ‘First World War: then and now’ programme which is enabling people to explore, conserve and share their First World War heritage. Groups that need a grant of more than £10,000 for a project can apply to HLF through its open programmes.
Projects on display showed the breadth and scale of First World War stories being explored and shared across the country:
- in Coventry, young people have been researching the rise and decline of women’s football during and following the end of the War;
- groups across Hertfordshire have uncovered the stories of those remembered on local war memorials across the county;
- in Belfast a project has been exploring why Irish nationalists volunteered to fight for the British army during the conflict; and
- a stone memorial has been created in Derby to recognise the contribution of the very many Sikhs who served in the war
Dr Andrew Murrison MP said: “The projects and stories I’ve seen here today have been an inspiration. It’s so important that we remember the impact of this war one hundred years on. There is still time to apply for money and I would urge anyone in my constituency with an idea for their own project to get in touch with HLF.”
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of HLF, said: “It’s been wonderful to see so many communities take up this opportunity to explore how the First World War affected their local area. So many interesting and unexpected stories have been uncovered, helping us to develop a rich and long-lasting picture of how this momentous conflict touched and shaped every corner of the UK.”
The event also saw the launch of Historypin’s First World War Centenary hub. The hub is a free online space where people right across the UK can share all the historical and contemporary photographs, films and audios clips that have been collected while marking the Centenary of the First World War. It has been developed in partnership with HLF, Jisc, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Imperial War Museums.
More information on how to apply for HLF funding is available at www.hlf.org.uk
10 October 2014
On Saturday morning at 8.30am Dr Murrison will be at the Civic Hall in Trowbridge attending a mayoral Breakfast to commemorate the commencement of The Great War in support of CATA (The Trowbridge Churches Together) as part of the HOPE 2014 national year of mission.
Directly after the breakfast Andrew will meet with a small group of Christian Aid supporters in the lobby of the Civic Hall in support of the national weekend of Prayer and Action this October (18/19th), when churches up and down the country will be engaging with their MP’s on the latest demands of their Climate Change Campaign.
9 October 2014
MP to visit BHF Trowbridge
On Friday at 11am Dr Murrison will visit the British Heart Foundation shop at 17 Fore Street, Trowbridge BA14 8HA to meet with staff and volunteers.
Dr Murrison will also hear about how the shop helps to Fight for Every Heartbeat and the way BHF-funded research has revolutionised the way heart conditions are diagnosed and treated.
8 October 2014
MP to attend Westbury Health Fair &
Westbury Community - Wiltshire Area Board meeting
On Thursday at 4.30pm Dr Andrew Murrison MP will attend a community event on Health & Wellbeing being hosted by Westbury Area Board at The Laverton, Bratton Road, Westbury. Andrew has been advised that there will be a whole range of information stalls on health and wellbeing from healthy eating and exercise through to on the spot health checks.
Directly after the Westbury Health Fair Andrew will attend the Westbury Community - Wiltshire Area Board meeting.
8 October 2014
MP attends South West Wiltshire Health Fair
Today, Dr Murrison MP will attend a community event on Health & Wellbeing being hosted by South West Wiltshire Area Board at Nadder Hall, Tisbury from 3.30pm-7.30pm.
Dr Murrison has been informed that there will be a variety of interactive stands representing local groups and organisations who are dedicated to supporting a healthy lifestyle.
18 September 2014
MP at the old town hall, Warminster
On Friday at 11am Dr Murrison MP will be at The Old Town Hall, Warminster so that he can be shown the improvements that have been made since the building has been brought back into use in recent months.
18 September 2014
MP to visit war graves
On Friday morning at 9.30am Dr Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for the Centenary Commemoration of the First World War will visit Sutton Veny Church (St John) Cemetery to visit war graves in support of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Mapping of War Graves to Constituencies Project.
18 September 2014
Murrison: more jobs mean a brighter future for Wiltshire families
Local MP and government minister Andrew Murrison has welcomed new figures showing that 567 fewer people are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in his South West Wiltshire constituency since 2010, a 42% drop, as throughout Britain the number of people relying on JA falls below one million for the first time since 2008.
Dr Murrison said:
“These impressive new figures are great but what’s more important are the people they represent – my constituents now in work who didn’t have the security of a regular pay packet and were relying on benefits.
“The government’s long-term economic plan, reforming welfare and backing businesses, is a winning strategy benefitting hard working people and their families as these figures clearly show.
“The aim locally is to up-skill the workforce and I know that agencies like Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire College are actively engaged in this."
1 September 2014
MP warning on west Warminster development
Andrew Murrison is pressing Wiltshire Council to insist that developers make alternative arrangements for access to building land to the west of Warminster. The MP who has visited the site off Folly Lane with local residents and councillors said;
“The developers with an interest in this substantial development need to be working together to ensure disruption to the lives of residents is minimised. I see no evidence of them doing so and hope that the council will ensure they are not allowed to ride roughshod over people.”
The MP has also voiced concerns over the extent of housing envisaged;
“Whilst there is undoubtedly local housing need, I do not see the employment opportunities implied by the type and extent of the build proposed. Jobs will be accessed in Bristol, Bath and Swindon and in the future increasingly along the M4 corridor and the Bournemouth/Poole conurbation. I am not satisfied that this is being adequately reflected in the core planning process. Unless it is, Warminster will assume the character of a dormitory town with more road misery on the creaking A350 and A36.”
Dr Murrison plans to ask Communities Minister Eric Pickles to intervene if a satisfactory resolution is not achieved soon.
28 August 2014
MP congratulates local WW1 lottery winners
Andrew Murrison, PM’s Special Representative for the Centenary Commemoration of the First World War has expressed his delight at the awards by the Heritage Lottery Fund of grants to Warminster Town Council and Stourhead which is operated by the National Trust.
“These latest grants will further enrich the centenary educational experience locally and I congratulate the recipients.”
30 July 2014
Minister prepares for start of Great War Centenary
Andrew Murrison has his work cut out as the start of the UK Commemoration of the Centenary of the First World War approaches. The South West Wiltshire MP and minister has been the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for the Centenary since September 2011 and central to the arrangements. He was largely responsible for getting the programme going and for its design and has been liaising closely internationally in advance of next month’s launch. Andrew said;
“The sheer scale of the Great War demands pause for reflection at the beginning of a centenary like no other.
“A four year anniversary is a marathon not a sprint but the first day is vital. It will set the tone and encourage people to explore the causes, conduct and consequences of a series of events that continue to shape our world today.
On Monday 4 August the UK will mark its entry into the war with commemorative events attended by senior members of the Royal Family at home and abroad. Andrew will be attending the opening service in Glasgow which comes the day after the Commonwealth Games closes and he will then travel with senior ministerial colleagues to the St Symphorien Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery near Mons in Belgium where there will be a very special event to be broadcast live by the BBC.
30 July 2014
Lights out to mark Centenary of the outbreak of war
Andrew Murrison has urged Wiltshire to observe ‘Lights Out’ at 10pm on Monday 4 August, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the UK entering the First World War. The PM’s Special Representative for the Centenary Commemoration said;
“This is a simple way of remembering the tragic events of a century ago and will be replicated the length and breadth of the country.”
15 July 2014
South West Wiltshire MP becomes Northern Ireland Office Minister in reshuffle
David Cameron has transferred Andrew Murrison from Defence to the NIO in his reshuffle today. Andrew said;
“It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as a defence minister for nearly two years with some really great people. I am looking forward to my new duties in Northern Ireland.”
Andrew retains his role as the PM’s Special Representative for the Commemoration of the Centenary of the First World War.
10 July 2014
MP visits Churches Conservation Trust at St Leonard's Sutton Veny
On Friday morning at 10.30am Dr Murrison will visit St Leonard’s Church in Duck Street, Sutton Veny, Warminster BA12 7AL.
"It's good to be updated by the CCT which has been very helpful with preserving churches in our area"
28 April 2014
MP represents government at Gallipoli
Defence Minister Andrew Murrison represented the government at the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings in Turkey on 24 and 25 April. The South West Wiltshire MP who is the Prime Minister's Special Representative for the Centenary of the Great War attended several services over two days including the annual Dawn Service at ANZAC Cove and discussed next year's centenary with his opposite numbers.
After returning to the UK on Saturday Dr Murrison said;
"The commemorative events were each deeply moving and we can anticipate even greater interest in Gallipoli during its centenary next year."
3 April 2014
MP supports poppy planting
At 1pm on Friday Dr Murrison, MP for South West Wiltshire and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for the Centenary Commemoration of the First World War will be at Trowbridge station to help support railway enthusiasts that are digging to help plant a B&Q Royal British Legion poppy trail.
3 April 2014
MP visits Stourhead as part of English Tourism Week.
At 9.30am on Friday Dr Murrison will visit Stourhead House and Garden in Stourton near Warminster, a National Trust property, as part of this year’s English Tourism Week from 29 March – 6 April 2014 being a celebration of events to kick start the tourism season.
27 March 2014
MP at Crockerton school
On Friday 28 March at 11.30am Dr Andrew Murrison MP will visit Crockerton Primary School, Potters Hill, Crockerton BA12 8AB.
Andrew will be given a tour of the school and meet with children and staff.
3 February 2014
Speech at University College Cork 24 January 2014
Minister, Mr Deputy Mayor, President of UCC, ladies and gentlemen
I’m hugely grateful to have been invited here to Cork to join you at this important conference.
The Centenary that is about to break upon us offers an opportunity to set the developing relationship between our two countries in a deeper context.
And I hope improve it.
What a great legacy that would be. What a tribute to the fallen.
Ours is a complex and nuanced relationship that is now, in the 21st Century, going well.
Today’s better times are epitomised by President McAleese’s invitation to the Queen to visit Ireland in 2011 - during which some of you may recall a walkabout here in Cork to enable the Queen to meet members of the public.
It is a relationship that was further deepened by the visit of the Taoiseach (pron : Tee-shock) and David Cameron to the Menin gate and to Messines last month.
And it will be capped by President Higgins’ visit to Britain this year – the first Irish head of state to make a state visit to the UK.
The British Head of State has of course been here before – a hundred years before.
Great Britain’s decision to go to war in 1914
In Britain we have already had some spirited debate about how we – and, for better or worse, it was ‘we’ in 1914 - came to be engaged in the First World War and whether our involvement was Just, ultimately, in the terms of St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas.
One interpretation has us sleepwalking into a tragically wasteful and pointless conflict - a proposition advanced by Christopher Clark and popular in Germany.
Alternatively it can be seen as the inevitable result of naval rivalry between Britain and Germany as muscular Germany elbowed its way for a place in the sun.
Whatever the war’s origins, it is a fact that Germany took full advantage to pursue a military campaign that had been designed some years previously.
But was it necessary for Britain to enter the war?
Witness the amorous Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s comment to his lady friend Venetia Stanley as matters came to a head in the Balkans that July:
‘Happily, he said to Venetia, there seems to be no reason why we should be anything more than spectators.’
Just the sort of remark gentlemen to include in a letter to your girlfriend.
Many historians and commentators these days may well agree with Asquith’s mindset of July 1914. In short that, leaving aside our treaty obligations to Belgium, Britain could have stayed out of the war.
Sure such an approach would have brought problems – German hegemony on the Continent - or, had France and Russia won, pressure on wider British interests.
On the other hand, to many now – and especially at the time – it was a war of survival in which there was a direct existential threat to UK.
The different circumstances of World War 2
The advocates of Britain maintaining splendid isolation in 1914 would perhaps argue that the consequences for Britain’s interests could not have been worse than the horror unleashed by the Second World War, which most of us agree was causally linked to the first.
And perhaps that’s the point.
Because of the Nazis, involvement in 1939 is not generally contested in the UK, nor is the status of 1939-1945 as a Just War.
And although by that time Britain and Ireland had become separate states tens of thousands of Irishmen fought in the allied forces and served with great distinction.
Hitler and the Nazis are popularly seen as the distillation of evil where Wilhelminic Germany is not.
From that flows a sense of meaning to the sacrifices that were made between 1939 and 1945.
But what of the First World War?
Well, if you regard the UK’s involvement as unnecessary then self-evidently the sacrifices were themselves unnecessary.
However if you take what I think is the majority view – and it is one that I hold – then the war was necessary and was Just at the point at which Asquith’s Liberal government committed to it.
Herein lies the problem and is central to our discussion today.
A just war is one thing.
But a just war in which men are slaughtered on an industrial scale and in which there remain accusations of chaotic military management – ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ - is something else.
Was the war futile or was the way in which it was conducted futile?
At the confluence of these strands of thought congeals the classic vision of a meaningless bloodbath.
An affront to all reason.
And if futility becomes the leitmotif we are bound to see death in the First World War as qualitatively differently from death in the second.
I believe that that is wrong.
In Ireland, I am very conscious of the efforts being made by the President, government ministers and others to revisit the contribution made by Irish men and women in the First World War.
At a symposium last week in Dublin, President Higgins said that:
“It is crucial that we endeavour to do justice to the complexity of the historical context.”
The President welcomed the fact that historical studies in Ireland had largely departed from a narrow, nationalist view of the Great War.
Much of our experience of that conflict in Britain and Ireland is shared.
Certainly the war effort was supported by both Nationalists and Unionists with members of both communities joining the army in large numbers.
The sheer scale of the conflict makes the exact number uncertain but it is likely that well over 200,000 Irishmen served in the British forces during the war.
As in Britain, the motivation of the men and women who volunteered – and all, of course, were volunteers as conscription was never, in the end, introduced in Ireland – would have been many and varied.
For some the motivation to join up was as old as history – because in straightened times it was a means by which impoverished young men could get three square meals a day, clothes on their back and a roof over their heads.
That’s not solely an Irish phenomenon.
It was true for much of Britain and her empire.
And I’m sure for the Continental Powers too.
Others may have joined up out of a sense of duty or in search of adventure or to escape from the crushing tedium and lack of horizons that was otherwise their poor lot in life.
Some may have done so in order to defend the neutrality of a small, catholic country – Belgium.
And many nationalists would have shared John Redmond’s vision that the war provided an opportunity to,
“Win for our country the most inestimable treasure to be obtained, in creating a free and united Ireland – united North and South, Catholic and Protestant”.
But it is, of course, a matter of record that the history of the Irish Republic meant that – motivations aside - commemoration of the fallen in the aftermath of 1918 was a more complex affair than it was in Britain.
Conflicting emotions meant that Remembrance Sunday in Dublin was itself riven with tension – certainly throughout the 1920s and 30s.
Eamon Gilmore, deputy prime minister of Ireland, this month, at the launching of a new website giving the biographical details of the Irish First World War dead, put it this way:
“The First World War in Ireland was seen for many years as a divisive part of our troubled legacy. And because of this, there was a tendency to avoid any interrogation of Irish involvement.’’
However, we have learnt that contending with the past, as we have done over a number years in relation to Ireland’s role and contribution, has brought with it great opportunities to recognise in our reflections on the war our common humanity, our common cause, and our common heritage.”
I very much agree.
And we should not devalue our Remembrance of British and Irish servicemen because of perceptions of the futility of the First World War or because of what Mr Gilmore calls Ireland’s troubled legacy.
That is not to say such propositions are unimportant or binary.
In some minds there is still a tension between this year’s commemoration being seen as a rededication of peace on the one hand and it being a more overt recognition that the dead of the First War perished ‘so that we might be free’ – with all the historical meaning that that phrase entails.
But when all is said and done a shared respect for the sacrifices that those British and Irish troops made is a perspective on which I believe we can all agree.
It is, as it were, our common starting point on a journey.
If shared involvement is a key aspect of how we look back at the events unfurling in 1914 so was the scale of the suffering.
It was suffering on an unimaginable, though not unprecedented, scale.
Exact numbers can never be established of course given the industrial scale of the slaughter and the long shadow cast by the war.
A conservative estimate would be that at least 30,000 Irishmen lost their lives as a result of their service.
This gives a casualty rate of 14%, in line with that experienced by British Forces overall.
And the sense of loss among the families of the dead and afflicted was the same in Dublin, Belfast, London, Glasgow or Cardiff.
With the support of the Irish government, that service and the sacrifice of those who died will be recognised further with the erection by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission of a Cross of Sacrifice at Glasnevin Cemetery later this year.
I have visited Glasnevin and know full well the totemic significance of what is proposed in the lee of Daniel O’Connell’s tomb.
Many of the Irishmen to be commemorated at Glasnevin served in the 10th, 16th and 36th Divisions of the British Army and saw action in the war’s signature battles.
Tens of thousands served in other units, in the Royal Navy and in the nascent Royal Air Force.
And it was of course as part of the advance of Irish troops of the 16th and 36th divisions at Messines in June 1917 that the Irish Nationalist MP for East Clare, Major Willie Redmond, lost his life.
As an ardent home-ruler he believed his war service would help bring about north-south reconciliation.
Writing to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1916, he said
"It would be a fine memorial to the men who have died so splendidly if we could, over their graves, build up a bridge between North and South. I have been thinking a lot about this lately in France – no one could help doing so when one finds that the two sections from Ireland are actually side by side holding the trenches!"
Soldiers from Munster
And since we are in Cork today you’ll perhaps allow me to dwell for a moment on the particular contributions that men from Munster made.
Men who, before Independence, had had a long history of service in the British Army and, let us not forget, the Royal Navy in Cork.
These men were to see especially active service in the British Armed Forces during the First World War.
Indeed the actions of the men from Munster are able to articulate my proposition much better than I can as a politician.
The Royal Munster Fusiliers drew particularly from this area and sons of the province served with great distinction on the Western Front.
Men like Martin Doyle from County Wexford who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1918 and later joined the IRA in the war of independence before fighting for the pro-treaty cause in the civil war.
Michael O’Leary of the Irish Guards from Inchigeela (Pron : as written), County Cork, another winner of the Victoria Cross and one of the best known Cork personalities of the period, about whose deeds of valour George Bernard Shaw wrote a play.
He re-joined the British army to fight in the Second World War, eventually being discharged in 1945 on medical grounds having reached the rank of Major.
And Tom Barry from Killorglin (Pron : as written), County Kerry, the Royal Artillery gunner who served for over three years in the British army before his second career in the IRA in the war of independence and later on the anti-treaty side in the civil war.
The point is that these three men were not only brave and accomplished soldiers, their personal stories show how complicated the politics and allegiances of the time were.
It is exactly this complexity that should lead us to the conclusion that, in Ireland’s decade of commemorations, we should remember with respect the sacrifice of all of that generation, from whichever traditions or perspectives they fought.
One hundred years on from those tumultuous events, our passions are cooler and our appraisal can be more nuanced, objective and multi-faceted.
A hundred years gives us that space.
In her visit to Ireland in 2011, Her Majesty the Queen laid a laurel wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin in honour of those who had died in the cause of Irish freedom.
That, of course, very much included a generation of Irishmen and women, among whom were some who returned from fighting in British uniform in the First World War to fighting against those in British uniform in the war of independence.
As historians, you will delve into this complexity in much greater detail than I can. And you will, no doubt, have your debates and differences as you seek to shed light on the events of the time.
When David Cameron announced last year our approach to the First World War centenary, he said that commemorations would be based on three themes – remembrance, youth and education. He was clear this would be commemoration, not a celebration.
In the UK we will hold national events to mark the start and end of the war and to commemorate its great battles and campaigns – in all of which Irishmen took part.
Those national events will have a Commonwealth look and feel to them – or rather I should say an Ireland and Commonwealth look and feel to them – reflecting the reality of the time. And they will also include countries who were not our allies then but who are now valued partners and friends.
Let me say a word about remembrance. Remembrance is not the same as recollection. How can it be since none of us here can recollect the events of 1914. Remembrance is the process of honouring the fallen, bringing to mind their suffering and resolving to strive for better. The objective is to achieve a richer, deeper and more reflective legacy of the war. I have argued there will be many differing interpretations of the war. We may disagree with some of them. But it is not the role of government to prescribe. Our role is to lead and encourage. It is emphatically not the place of government to be handing down approved versions of history.
Research carried out for an NGOcalled British Future found that 77% of the public see the First World War centenary as an opportunity for reconciliation.
The British government very much agrees.
Reconciliation does not mean seeking to bend historical inquiry to fit its purpose. Quite the contrary The goal of reconciliation is served by as open-minded an approach to the past as possible.
But as a British Government minister, my interest is not only in achieving an accurate version of the past and in facilitating exploration of the causes, conduct and consequences of the war it also lies in finding a way to commemorate events to help heal historic divisions and promote reconciliation between our countries and our people
As President Higgins said last week:
“We need new myths that not only carry the burden of history but fly from it and make something new.”
If we manage to promote reconciliation and friendship in the course of commemorating the events of 100 years ago, we will have been true to our present and to our past.
To our present, because the modern relationship between Britain and Ireland is based on respect, friendship and cooperation.
To our past, because so many hoped that the experience of shared sacrifice in a common endeavour would bring people together.
Tom Kettle, the Irish nationalist politician, poet and British soldier, famously said:
“Used with the wisdom that is sown in tears and blood, this tragedy of Europe may be and must be the prologue to the two reconciliations of which all statesmen have dreamed, the reconciliation of Protestant Ulster with Ireland, and the reconciliation of Ireland with Great Britain."
Sadly, Lieutenant Kettle’s death, leading his men in the successful capture of the village of Guinchy on the Somme in 1916, and the wholesale sowing of blood he referred to, did not, in the years following the war, promote the cause of reconciliation in which he so fervently believed.
But what a magnificent tribute it would be - to him and to those who fought with him from Ireland, north and south, and from Great Britain - to commemorate the war in a manner commensurate with those two reconciliations.
And that is the approach being taken by both the British and Irish governments.
I applaud the example set by the visit by the Taoiseach (pron : Tee-shock) and David Cameron to Flanders last month honouring our war dead together.
There will be many other opportunities for members of both our governments - and indeed our publics - to stand shoulder to shoulder in remembrance in the coming years.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them – all of them.
In closing I might turn to an article that I saw in the Irish Independent just a few days ago.
It concerned Private John Mulalley (Pron : as written), from County Meath who joined the Connaught Rangers before dying in Flanders early in the War.
Private Mullaley is listed at the Menin Gate in Ypres alongside more than 54,000 officers and men who lost their lives in Flanders and who have no known grave.
His niece – now 80 – reflected on the difficulties when she was growing up of discussing at home Uncle John’s service.
But she concluded by welcoming the fact that time has allowed the sacrifices of the Irish dead to be discussed freely and for those who perished to be remembered.
And if in doing so we can draw our two countries together just a little bit more we will have honoured our dead with a legacy of peace.
Ladies and Gentlemen
27 January 2014
Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaining and Trade Union Administration Bill
This Bill is about bringing greater transparency to politics and how third parties interact with the political system. Charities and other campaigning organisations play a vital role in the democratic process and this has always been, and will continue to be, fully recognised.
Ministers have listened carefully to the concerns raised during an exhaustive consultation with over 50 charities and organisations and firm steps have already been taken to reassure smaller charities. The Government made a number of amendments to the Transparency Bill which address the concerns raised about the potential impact of the Bill and existing rules on non-party campaigning at elections. These changes have been welcomed by charities and other groups, including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, who said:
“Much of the risk to charities from this legislation has now been averted. We are grateful that the government has listened to the concerns charities have raised in recent months. Charities, by law, may not campaign in a party political manner…The bill now provides a much more sensible balance than it did to begin with between creating accountability and transparency in elections while still allowing for charities and others to speak up on issues of concern.”
Fundamental to the amendments was the raising of the registration rates to £20,000 for England and £10,000 in each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will effectively exempt most campaigning groups and charities who are either small or undertake limited political campaigning from registration and reporting requirements. Amendments were also made to relieve the reporting burdens for small charities and to institute a review after the 2015 General Election.
I must continue to stress that that an organisation campaigning solely on policy issues will not be included in these changes. These new proposals are only for third party organisations which campaign for the electoral success of a particular political party or candidate. Limiting campaign spending during an election will help the UK avoid the situation we see in other countries, where unregulated spending by vested interests means that it might not always be the best candidate who wins an election, but the one with the richest supporters.
There were around 100 amendments from the House of Lords when the Bill came back to the Commons and only three were not accepted, including two relating to staff costs and constituency limits. These amendments failed to take into account the very principle behind the bill - that is transparency. It is essential that members of the public know when a third party is campaigning in their constituency, and how much money is being spent.
RELEASE 9 January 2014
MP to view exhibition
MP Andrew Murrison will be in Horningsham on Friday at 10am to view the ‘Take One’ exhibition inspired by the National Gallery and Longleat House.