Great-nephew of WWI hero opens exhibition

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A Londonderry MLA whose great-uncle died in the First World War says nationalists and unionists are united by their shared history of suffering in that epoch-making conflict.

SDLP MLA Gerard Diver made the comments as he opened a new World War One exhibit, which is currently on display in the Ráth Mór centre in Creggan.

The curator of the collection, Seamus Breslin praised Mr Diver for his continued support and assistance in helping both to secure funding for the exhibition and for keeping the memory and sacrifice of the fallen alive within the nationalist community.

“The story of these men was almost forgotten. During my research I met many families who were unaware that their neighbours father, grandfather or great-grandfather had served and fallen beside their own relative.

“This really is a chapter of our history that was almost lost but for the work of a few individuals such as Mr Diver. There would have been no exhibition but for his assistance.”

Mr Diver said: “This exhibit tells the forgotten story of so many families across this region. It brings to life again the tales of bravery, sacrifice and loss in time for such an important anniversary, the 2016 centenary.

“While these displays have been twenty years in the making, the details unearthed, their personal stories recounted and the fact that at last these men are being commemorated by their own community ensures it has been worth all the hard work.”

The former Mayor also recounted how his own great-uncle perished in WWI: “It is a personal story to me and my family and many, many more local families might be surprised to learn they had relatives in the trenches also.”

“I know this has been a labour of love for Seamus. His work and tireless research is a credit to him and to those whose lives and sacrifice we remember today. There was no community in Europe left unaffected by the Great War and as this display proves, the Nationalist population in Derry was no different. It really proves no matter our differences our shared history is incredibly strong.”

He added: “The exhibit runs for one month in Creggan’s Ráth Mór Shopping Centre before moving to the Central Library, Foyle Street. Regardless of personal politics it is a startling, indeed timely reminder of the losses suffered by all the community.”

The exhibition was made possible thanks to the support of Guildhall Press and the International Fund For Ireland.