Minister travels to France for Somme commemoration

Heather Humphreys will attend ceremony for Irish who died in first World War battles

 Irish soldiers rest during the opening hours of the Battle of the Somme,  July 1st, 1916. Photograph: Royal Engineers No 1 Printing Company/IWM via Getty Images

Irish soldiers rest during the opening hours of the Battle of the Somme, July 1st, 1916. Photograph: Royal Engineers No 1 Printing Company/IWM via Getty Images

 

Minister for Arts and Heritage Heather Humphreys has travelled to France for the Somme Association centenary commemoration service for the Battles of Guillemont and Ginchy, which took place during the Battle of the Somme in the first World War.

Ms Humphreys will join senior Irish and French ministers at a special ceremony to commemorate all those from the 16th (Irish) Division who died on the battlefields of the Somme in 1916.

The secretary of state for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire has also travelled to France for the event.

Ahead of the commemoration, Mr Brokenshire visited Thiepval Wood and viewed preserved portions of trenches.

Mr Brokenshire said he was honoured and humbled to make his first visit to the Somme as secretary of state for Northern Ireland and to represent the British government at Saturday’s ceremony.

“It is a privilege to attend commemorations of this nature, as we remember the incredible heroism of all those from the 16th (Irish) Division, who sustained agonising casualties in successfully capturing Guillemont and Ginchy in September 1916.

“As we stand here this morning, in a beautiful part of northern France, it is hard to imagine the horror of what those brave men must have endured over 100 years ago.

“That is why it is important we continue to remember that they fought for the freedom that we all enjoy today.”

Battle of the Somme

Mr Brokenshire said: “Just as in Great Britain, so across the island of Ireland there was virtually no corner left unaffected by the Battle of the Somme.

“The contribution and sacrifice of the men who fought in the battle was immense, and we should never forget it.”