About Irish Peace Tower
The Irish Peace Tower, also called the Island of Ireland Peace Park, is a memorial to all Irish casualties in World War One and remembers both those from the Catholic and Protestant communities.
Irish Peace Tower history
The memorial site is dedicated to the soldiers of Ireland, of all political and religious beliefs, who died, were wounded or missing in the Great War of 1914-1918. Irish men and women served with the Armies of Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.
Opened in 1998 by then-President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, alongside Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and King Albert II of Belgium, the Irish Peace Tower consists of a one hundred foot tall tower built using stone brought from Ireland.
The location of the Irish Peace Tower is significant as it signifies an important moment in World War One where both Protestant and Catholic Irish divisions fought side-by-side during the 1917 battle for the Messines Ridge.
The tower was built as a symbol of reconciliation by An All-Ireland Journey of Reconciliation Trust and the support of the people of Messines (now called by its Flemish name Mesen). The design is that of a traditional Irish round tower dating back to the 8th century. It is 33.5 metres (110 feet) high. As part of the design the inside of the tower is lit up by the sun only on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. This is the time at which the Armistice was declared and the guns fell silent on the Western Front after four years of fighting.
Irish Peace Tower today
Inside the Tower there are record books with the names of the 49,400 known Irish who gave their lives in the First World War. About 300,000 Irishmen served in all armies in this war. These are copies of the original books held by the National War Memorial Gardens in Dublin, Ireland.
The short history of this memorial has been plagued by controversy, initially, there were heated discussions concerning which governments should pay what. This led to much debate as to whether the tower would be completed on time. Subsequently, there have been debates as to who should accept responsibility for maintaining the site.
Getting to Irish Peace Tower
The Peace Park is located on the west side of the N365 Ploegsteert-Mesen road, approximately 500 metres south from the centre of Mesen (known as Messines in 1914-1918).