Congressman Richard E. Neal, Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, Irish Vice-Consul General Meg Laffan, and city officials broke ground on a 1916 Garden of Remembrance in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Ireland’s Easter Rising. on Tuesday January 5.

The memorial garden, which will be located in Springfield’s historic Forest Park, is the first of its kind to launch in the United States. When completed, in May, the garden will feature seven oak trees in honor of the seven signatories of the Irish Proclamation, a replica in stone from Ireland of the proclamation, and two flag poles permanently displaying the American flag and the Irish tricolor. It will be an enduring living memorial to the men and women who died fighting for Irish freedom.

Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in America covering 735 acres of land looking over the Connecticut River. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the park has the only eternal flame in the US honoring the late President John F Kennedy, other than Arlington National Cemetery.

Read more about the 1916 centenary here

In 2009, former Irish President Mary McAleese visited Forest Park during a visit to the region to highlight the strong and historic relationship between western Massachusetts and the Republic of Ireland. Before he was elected Prime Minister and President of Ireland, Eamon De Valera spoke at a rally at Springfield Symphony Hall in 1920 in support of Irish independence.

The Springfield 1916 Garden of Remembrance was inspired by the vision of Diarmuid Gavin, the well-known Irish landscape artist. It was designed at the request of the City of Springfield Parks Department by GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc. The initiative was developed by Senator Mark Daly of Ireland, a member of the government’s committee on commemorations, and endorsed by Heather Humphries, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Congressman Richard E. Neal, Co-Chairman of the Friends of Ireland Caucus in the US Congress said “This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, a seminal moment in 1916 that led to Irish independence. And history reminds us that those who fought for freedom in Ireland were greatly influenced by the leaders of the American Revolution. In many respects, our Declaration of Independence served as a template for the Proclamation of the Irish Republic with its call for freedom, equal rights and civil liberties. And Ireland’s “exiled children in America” played a pivotal role in the creation of the modern Ireland we know today.

“I am pleased that Springfield is breaking ground of the first memorial garden in America, and I welcome those from western Massachusetts here this morning whose relatives fought for independence in 1916.”

Read more: Easter 1916 - How Irish America and Ireland saw it very differently