Archbishop of Dublin pays tribute to D-Day role played by Irish Catholics

The role played by Irish Catholics during the D-Day landings in France needs to be remembered, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has said.

Archbishop Eamon Martin spoke to BBC News NI at Cambes-en-Plaine war cemetery, where a number of Royal Ulster Rifles soldiers who served in the Normandy campaign are buried.

Tens of thousands of soldiers from Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State fought alongside each other in the battle against Nazi Germany.

However, Archbishop Martin said it was sad that many Catholic families do not talk about the role of family members who served in the Allied forces.

He added “everyone owes them a great deal of gratitude”.

“I hope that by being here myself that there are many families who feel that in some way we’re open and recognising the contribution of people from every county on the island.”

Church of Ireland Archbishop John McDowell has also travelled at the invitation of the Royal Irish Regiment to be part of the 80th anniversary commemorations of D-Day.

He said he wanted to hold up the stories of the soldiers and Army chaplains “so people don’t forget” and they are remembered as individuals.

During World War Two, about 130,000 people from the island of Ireland signed up to fight in the British Army.

Half of them were from the Irish Free State, which had declared itself to be neutral.

In Northern Ireland, such was the political division between unionists and nationalists, it was made exempt from conscription.

However, this did not stop many nationalists from joining up.

The 80th anniversary was marked by events in the UK, Ireland and France on Thursday.