TDs, councillors, and locals defied harsh weather conditions to attend the official opening of the 1916 Garden of Remembrance at Burgess Park last Saturday.
New Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, Cllr Frankie Keena, extended a warm welcome to everyone and thanked them for coming out on such a wet day.
Guest speaker on the day, Senator Mark Daly, travelled from Kerry to be present. Senator Daly is a member of the Joint Oireachtas 1916 National Commemorative Committee. Others in attendance included Mayor Tom Farrell, Deputy Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Shay Hamilton of Athlone Tidy Towns, Hugh O’Reilly of Westmeath County Council, and fellow Municipal District members.
Also present were members of the Defence Forces from the 6th Infantry Battalion led by Captain Barry Waters, as well Athlone and UN veterans.
In his opening address, Cllr Keena said that the main purpose of the garden is not only to remember those who were executed during the Rising but also local people who served as well.
The garden consists of seven trees in honour of the seven signatories, a granite proclamation, and a raised Tricolour. The box hedging celtic design comes from Diarmuid Gavin’s garden designs. On either side are two flower beds each with 100 flowers to mark 100 years. At the bottom of each tree is a timber facial imprint of each of the signatories, created by the Stepping Out Group.
Cllr Keena also thanked Westmeath County Council and the Department of Arts, Heritage, and Gaeltacht. Agreement from both Roscommon and Westmeath local authorities was needed and he thanked Cllr John Keogh of Roscommon County Council for securing agreement.
The Proclamation of Independence was read by students from each of the five local national schools: Sean Doyle from St Mary’s NS; Sile McAuley from Cornamaddy NS; Roisin Ni Dhuibhir of Scoile na gceithre Maistri; Mercy Nwanja of St Peter’s NS; and Naoise Prendergast of Coosan National School.
The Irish flag was carried out by a member the Defence Forces and raised. Cllr Keena invited everyone to follow the military parade plus artillery to the Civic Square where plaques in memory of the Elliott Sisters and Sean Costello were revealed.