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Wednesday, November 11, 1998 Published at 18:07 GMT

World: Europe

Ireland's fallen saluted

Mary McAleese, left, and the Queen face the sun at Messines

Queen Elizabeth II joined the Irish President, Mary McAleese, to commemorate those Irishmen who gave their lives during World War I.

World War 1:Special Section

The Queen and President McAleese were representing the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic respectively at the service of remembrance near the Belgian town of Ypres.

Standing side by side, their presence together was widely seen as carrying as much symbolic significance for the present day as for the past.

Nicholas Witchell in Ypres: "It is hoped that this joint act could add momentum to the peace process"
In her speech, the Queen said she considered it "a privilege to be invited here today for the unveiling of the statue of Winston Churchill to match that of General de Gaulle unveiled by my mother in London".

She also said: "As this turbulent century draws to a close we, like Churchill and de Gaulle before us, must remain united in our determination to work together - and with others - to build a free and peaceful Europe for future generations."

Former Irish leader Paddy Harte and loyalist leader Glen Barr jointly dedicate the peace tower
The Queen later joined Mary McAleese to unveil a tower on the site of the battle of Messines Ridge in memory of the Irish dead of World War I, and to inaugurate the Island of Ireland Peace Park.

The inauguration was the first public event undertaken jointly by a British monarch and the president of Ireland.

It was also the first meeting between the Queen and President McAleese since she came into power last year.

For King and country

More than 250,000 Irishmen fought in British regiments in World War I. Some were ironically fighting together against the Germans when the Easter Rising broke out back in Dublin in 1916.

In the battle for the Messines Ridge, Irish Catholics and Protestants from all over Ireland fought side by side against the common German enemy.

[ image: The Queen and President McAleese at the ceremony at the peace tower]
The Queen and President McAleese at the ceremony at the peace tower
The clash, in June 1917, was the only time during the war when largely Protestant soldiers from the 6th Ulster Division fought alongside Catholics from the 16th Irish Division, which was drawn from the south.

The battle was the precursor for the battle of Passchendaele and although it was considered a success, there were 24,000 British - mainly Irish - casualties.

Nineteen huge underground mines were detonated by the British Army, who then stormed the ridge overlooking Ypres from the south.

Bloodshed continued after armistice

Within months of the end of the war the British Army found itself fighting the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Ireland and thousands died before the Irish Free State was founded in 1922.

Thousands died in Northern Ireland after "The Troubles" broke out in 1969.

The Irish Prime Minister, or Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern said the joint service on Wednesday was "a symbolic moment of reconciliation".

He said his government was very pleased to contribute political and financial support to the £1.5m peace tower at Messines Ridge.

[ image: An Irish army officer salutes during the ceremony]
An Irish army officer salutes during the ceremony
The tower was partially built with stone from a former British Army barracks in Tipperary which was burnt down by Irish republicans during the struggle for independence.

It has been built so that the sun only illuminates the interior on the 11th of the 11th day of the 11th month - the anniversary of the armistice which ended the war.

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