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'Friendship tree' planted to promote Anglo-Irish understanding

London SE1 website team

A tree has been planted in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park by young people from Cork and Southwark as part of an initiative to develop Irish-British understanding in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

'Friendship tree' planted to promote Anglo-Irish understanding
Cllr Althea Smith, Mayor of Southwark, with Denis Murphy, chairman of the Cork Association of London
'Friendship tree' planted to promote Anglo-Irish understanding
School pupils from Southwark and Cork help to plant the tree

The tree was planted in honour of Terence MacSwiney – the playwright, poet and Lord Mayor of Cork who died in a South London prison in 1920.

The planting followed the annual Terence MacSwiney Memorial Mass at St George's Cathedral on Sunday morning.

The first soil was placed around the roots by Mayor of Southwark Cllr Althea Smith who said: "In Christ we are united. Unity is strength."

The two Cork schoolboys helping to plant the 'peace tree' were Shaun Donovan and Adam Wilson from Cork's North Monastery School which the Lord Mayor attended in the 1880s.

The two Southwark schoolgirls were Mai Nhu Lu and Jessica Agyare from Notre Dame RC Girls' School.

As Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney had succeeded his friend Tomas Mac Curtain who was found to have been murdered by police officers. Terence MacSwiney, having accepted the office of Lord Mayor, was arrested for sedition as the Irish War of Independence intensified.

He was held at Brixton Prison and died after 74 days on hunger strike.

Following MacSwiney's death his family requested the use of St George's Cathedral as it was a large church. Trade unionists from Lambeth and Southwark accompanied the funeral cortege from Brixton Prison to Southwark.

Irish pipers played Good-bye to Cork as the body left the cathedral and a lament two hours later when the long procession arrived at Euston Station for the first leg of the journey to Cork.

Present at Sunday's tree-planting ceremony were Cllr Barrie Hargrove, Southwark Trades Council representatives and Cork Association of London chairman Denis Murphy.

The association hopes the tree will acknowledge the friendship and practical help given by Southwark in 1920 as well as being a contribution to today's "process of improving East-West relations".

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