Prayer for the Day Script - 15th November 2018
A surprising aspect of World War One history is the impact the conflict had on Irish politics. Back then Ireland was one country under British rule, but the differing perspectives of Ulster unionists and Irish nationalists were as sensitive as they remain today.
It was to be expected that unionists would want to play their part in the British army – but many Irish nationalists also joined up, suspending aspirations of Home Rule in favour of the war effort.
And so in June 1917 –men from the 16th Irish and 36th Ulster Divisions march together on their way to Messines Ridge.
Among them, Captain Willie Redmond, 56-year-old Catholic Home Rule MP. He had been writing home about how his Irish regiment were “pulling famously with the Ulstermen” and wishing he could bring that spirit of co-operation back to Ireland.
Also among them, 23 year old Private John Meeke, a Protestant Orangeman serving as a stretcher bearer.
Sectarian identity is suspended as the battle rages.
Redmond is shot twice.
Ducking behind the debris, Scrambling through the mud, Meeke reaches Redmond, but is shot mid rescue.
Twice Redmond orders him to retreat to safety, but Meeke won’t go, and is hit again. Incredibly, he returns three more times to rescue casualties.
Sadly Redmond died just a few hours later. But Meeke’s bravery would earn him a Military Medal.
Today is the 33rd anniversary of the Anglo Irish Agreement – one of many controversial attempts to encourage peace in my homeland.
Conflict is complex, but whether it occurs in families, workplaces or nations, each small step towards peace requires some selfless bravery.
Lord, make me brave enough to be a channel of your peace. And where there is hatred, let me bring love.