Thurles Garden of Remembrance twinning between Thurles and Tibnin is recognised
John Wort recalls the twinning of St Mary's International Garden of Remembrance in Thurles with St George's in the Lebanon
In October 2009 when Mr John Wort, Chairman of the Durlas Eile Eliogarty Memorial Committee, Mr Guy Jones, Chairman of the Irish Lebanese Cultural Foundation and The Curator of St George's Church, Tibnin South Lebanon, and Mr Abdo Haddad met in the United Nations Garden of Remembrance on the grounds of St George's Church, John was very impressed with the area and the way it had become a very beautiful garden of remembrance, for all who died in the service of peace overlooking the hills and valleys of Tibnin.
After a long chat we decided that the link and the twinning would take place in the very near future. Mr. Haddad would have a ceremony in Tibnin and Mr Jones and I would organise it back home in Thurles. The ceremony was to take place in October 2010 in Tibnin. All the travel arrangements and preparations were in place to travel to Lebanon on that last weekend in October 2010.
We were all looking forward to our trip. But, on that Thursday night, while I was asleep my story changed and I ended up in Clonmel Hospital - I had gotten a brain seizure in my sleep. The medics said I would not be able to travel but I had other ideas about that. I knew myself on Friday night it was out of the question that I would not be going. I had to contact Mr. Conor Swords and Mr Guy Jones as the twinning plaque I had in my possession had to be in Dublin for Saturday morning. I contacted Mr Allen Dunphy R.I.P of Irish Rail and told him my story and soon the plaque was on its way to Dublin in the engine of the train to Heuston Station the next morning .
Mr Conor Swords and Bridget Quin waited for the plaque and the first leg of the journey to Lebanon had begone. Guy Jones takes up the story from there.
Mr Guy Jones, Chairman Irish Lebanese Cultural Foundation; Mr. Abdo Haddad, Curator St Georges Church; and Mr Johnny Wort, Chairman, Durlas Eile Eliogarty Memorial Committee.
“The twinning of St Mary's International Garden of Remembrance and the Irish Memorial Garden in Tibnin was declared during a visit of Chairman of the Durlas Eile Eliogarty Memorial Committee, Mr Johnny Wort in Oct 2009. A group of the three Honorary Members of the memorial committee Conor Swords, Bridget Quinn, and Mr. Guy Jones along with members of the Fr. James Gilmore Branch of O.N.E.T Dublin, The Chairman of the Cobh Branch O.N.E.T Domhnall Mac Carthaigh were there for the unveiling of the Memorial Plaque. The unveiling was attended by a crowd of locals, members of the Irish Defence forces serving with UNIFIL in Naqoura and a group that came all the way from Ireland to take part in the Ceremony.
The Ceremony was followed by Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Tyre, Youhanna Haddad, at St George's Church in Tibnin. The annual mass is sanctioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and is attended by Irish Diplomats and Parishioners in Tibnin. Ambassador Isolde Moylan attend the Mass to Commemorate the 47 young Irish Soldiers who died in the service of peace in Lebanon. Monsignor Haddad, in his sermon, praised the Christian values that the Irish demonstrated through their peacekeeping mission and reasserted the esteem that Lebanon holds for Ireland .
The Archbishop, in his address, welcomed and thanked the Irish Lebanese Cultural Foundation, the honorary members of the Durlas Eile Eliogarty Memorial Committee and the members of O.N.E.T for attending and for maintaining contact with the Irish Battalion in the region in south Lebanon.
Deputy Mayor, Youssef Fawaz, laid a wreath at the Irish Memorial and Ambassador Moylan thanked all the attendants and paid tribute to the sacrifices of the Irish Defence Forces and to their dedication which exceeds the call of duty.
Ambassador Moylan introduced Mr Georges Siam, to the new Honorary Consul of Ireland in Lebanon, and wished him every success in his mission. Mr Siam was head of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lebanon and is commended for his statement.
Ambassador Moylan was pleasantly surprised to learn that St Mary's International Garden of Remembrance in Thurles was the only place in Ireland that the Lebanese flag flies officially at full mast . Mr Abdo Haddad conveyed his best wishes and a speedy recovery to his good friend Johnny Wort and congratulated him and the Thurles Memorial Committee on the very successful Twinning of St Mary's Garden of Remembrance and Tibnin's Irish Memorial .
The memory of the 47 Brave Irishmen who died in the service of peace was eloquently summarised by this inscription: “Gone But Not Forgotten .”
As Chairman of the Durlas Eile Eliogarty Memorial Committee, I would like to thank all who participated in this historical ceremony . The man who came to our rescue Mr Allen Dunphy (RIP) Irish Rail. His Grace Dr Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly who blessed the plaque before it left on its historical journey to the Lebanon, and to you all again many thanks for making it all possible.
In 2011 I got the chance to go out to Tibnin to meet with all my old friends to visit the Irish Memorial Garden and a surprise visit to meet with the President of Lebanon, Mr Michele Sleman. The President thanked me for my dedication to peace and remembrance in St Mary's and in Tibnin. Some months later I was presented with the Commander in Chief's Medal in recognition of my achievements . It was a great honour for me and my friend's who traveled with me to Tibnin in South Lebanon to meet with the President in his Palace.