Major boost to repatriate remains of great Irish hero Patrick Sarsfield as campaign secures significant sponsor

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Pictured, Ireland Head for Carelon Global Solutions Ireland John Patrick Shaw, Honorary Consul of France Dr Loïc Guyon and Carelon Global Solutions Ireland Director Data Science AI Hélène Dingreville

The campaign to return the remains of one of Ireland’s great patriots Patrick Sarsfield some 330 years following his death from wounds received in a battle in modern day Belgium has received a major boost with the securing of a sponsor to fund site excavations and begin the DNA proofing process this year.

US health-tech company Carelon Global Solutions Ireland, which established an R&D hub at the National Technology Park in Limerick in 2021, has come on board as a long-term partner in a move that will provide key financial support for the campaign.

The campaign, led by Limerick based Honorary Consul of France Dr Loïc Guyon, is seeking to repatriate the remains to the ‘Treaty City’, which is synonymous with Sarsfield, one of Ireland’s great heroes in the Irish resistance during the Williamite-Jacobite wars. Sarsfield is particularly remembered for leading the proud defence of Ireland in the Siege of Limerick in 1690, including the famous ‘Sarsfield Ride’, one of the most daring feats in Irish history when he led 600men on horseback through Clare, Tipperary and Limerick, to blow up the English siege train bound for the under-siege city. Sarsfield ultimately negotiated the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 and the Flight of the Wild Geese. This saw him lead 12,000 soldiers from Limerick to France where he achieved high rank (Maréchal de Camp) in the French Army, before being fatally wounded at the Battle of Landen in 1693 in modern Belgium.

Carelon’s sponsorship of the campaign to return his remains to Limerick will initially finance the excavation works at the site in Huy, Belgium where Patrick Sarsfield is understood to have been buried after dying from wounds suffered in Landen, 40mins from Huy. The funding, together with crowd funding for the project, will also enable a round of DNA testing with living Irish based descendants of Patrick Sarsfield that will be essential for confirming identity of the remains. A number of descendants have already come forward and volunteered to participate in the programme.

Sarsfield Homecoming
Pictured, Fabienne Clérot, John Patrick Shaw, Minister Kieran O'Donnell, Hélène Dingreville, Dr Loïc Guyon, and Michelle Noone.

Ireland Head for Carelon Global Solutions Ireland John Patrick Shaw, which has recruited over 200 people so far through its Limerick Innovation Centre, said that the sponsorship is a perfect fit for the organisation, with DNA playing a key role in one of the company’s key missions of predicting and prevent health issues, plus the fact that the campaign is led from the company’s Irish home, Limerick.

Mr Shaw said,

“We’re delighted to be coming on board as the lead sponsor of this really exciting and important initiative and at such a critical time for the project. This is phase one of our commitment and we intend to support the campaign right through to a successful conclusion. When we arrived in Limerick, we were so impressed by the welcome and pro-business focus of the city that we wanted to contribute to the community here and are doing so across a number of streams.  The Patrick Sarsfield Homecoming project is one such initiative and one we’re passionate about.  

“What drew our interest to the campaign, apart from the fact that it relates to such a pivotal moment in Limerick’s history, was that in order to determine where exactly Patrick Sarsfield is buried, we need to use genetic analysis. Carelon is all about predicting and preventing health care issues and one of the ways to do that is, is to use genetic analysis. So this project connects with our purpose as a company but also with the city in which we are headquartered.”

Dr Loïc Guyon, who initiated and has single-handedly driven the campaign, said, “Carelon’s commitment is hugely important. Up to now, we’ve been trying to raise funds through crowd-funding and that will continue but Carelon’s funding enables us to proceed with the first phase archaeological excavation in Huy this autumn. We’ve a lot of work to do but the priority now is to do these initial archaeological works, gather Sarsfield family DNA testing here in Ireland or perhaps elsewhere in Europe and then, all going well, confirm the remains of Patrick Sarsfield by the summer of 2024. We would then be looking at a formal repatriation to Ireland by the end of 2024 or early 2025.”

Director Data Science and AI, Carelon Global Solutions Ireland Ltd and French native Hélène Dingreville, who will work closely with Dr Guyon on the project, said,

“The partnership between the Patrick Sarsfield Homecoming project and Carelon is important in many respects. We’re getting to commit and give support to a key project for Limerick and in Carelon we are looking at the role of DNA in future healthcare.

“Also, we see this as an opportunity to deepen ties with our nearest EU neighbours, France, including in healthcare. France has one of Europe’s leading healthcare systems and we believe there’s potential for collaboration across research and development, too. We look forward to supporting the Patrick Sarsfield Homecoming project and, indeed, to developing these relationships.”

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Treaty Stone Limerick. Photo Piotr Machowczyk