It almost makes me cheer. I am very pleased to hear about it, but it comes as no surprise to me, because there has always been a tradition of service in the Republic of Ireland. As I said earlier, the fact that 130,000 people from the Republic volunteered to fight in the first world war was an indication of their wish to do so. The Irish Guards have a strong association with us, and in my town a large proportion of recruits are from the Republic. They are quite happy to swear allegiance to Her Majesty and to the British Army, and to do what they are instructed to do in their job.
I am also pleased—this is relevant to what has just been said by Mr Jones—that we are beginning to see a tradition of change. War memorials down south that were going to rack and ruin have been spruced up, and memorial services are now being held as we hold them in Northern Ireland, over a period of time. Great changes are coming, and indeed change has come, but some people may still be unwilling to accept the new future.
I want us to stand shoulder to shoulder, regardless of religious belief, political ideals or anything else. I long for us to stand in simple gratitude and respect for those whose blood has marked the way and allowed us our right to debate these issues in the House tonight, along with the right to abstain—if that is what people want to do—and the right to voice opposing opinions, as we often do in the House, although we are still friends at the end of it. All those rights we have for one reason only: the sacrifice that was made with us in mind.
Some Members have referred to the role for youth. In my constituency, there is an incredible turnout on Remembrance Sunday for all the parades that I go to. How proud I am—indeed, how proud we would all be—of the uniformed church groups and the Army, air force and naval cadets: young people who are just starting out in life, but who want to serve in uniform. We also have an opportunity to see some of our older soldiers, although every year we look around and see one or two fewer. It is the same for all of us. That is life, but a new generation is coming in, and that new generation will follow all of us, and all those who have left us. It is good to have a remembrance service of that kind in my constituency, and I suspect that the same applies to every constituency that enrols uniformed organisations and young people to make their contribution. They understand very well what is going on.
I wear my poppy, and so do my sons, who, in turn, have taught my granddaughters what it means to remember—not to idealise, not to seek to alter historical fact, and not to make any proclamation other than that, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them. That is what today’s debate is about. I long, in this special year, for those who have determined to disrespect the meaning of the poppy, and who simply do not care enough to buy a poppy or perhaps even to attend a remembrance service, instead to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who attend annually, and to express themselves in that way.
Let us all stand and take a minute simply to say, “We remember, we are grateful, and we will seek to ensure that the lessons learned through your tremendous sacrifice will be passed on to future generations”—which I know that they will. That is not just a phrase, but my enduring promise: I will remember them.