Givan and O’Neill mark Battle of the Somme anniversary in Dublin

‘A privilege to lay a wreath on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland’ – First Minister

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Paul Givan and its Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill  mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Paul Givan and its Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

 

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Paul Givan and its Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill both attended the annual wreath laying ceremony at the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Dublin to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Both were attending the event for the first time.

The Minister of State Jack Chambers, representing the Government and the Taoiseach, also attended the event as did ambassadors from Britain, Germany, Canada, New Zealand and diplomats and representatives of the Defence Forces, the British Army and the Royal British Legion.

Mr Givan said it had been “a privilege to lay a wreath on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland in honour of all those who gave their lives for our freedom”.

He noted that “so many brave young people, soldiers, airmen, doctors, nurses and clergy were lost over the course of the five months of the Battle of the Somme, causing devastation to families and communities back home. Today we recognise their unity of purpose and spirit of sacrifice and renew our pledge never to forget.”

Ms O’Neill described the Battle of the Somme as a “hugely significant event in our shared history and it is right that we commemorate it in a respectful and inclusive way. Thousands of people from across this island died at the Somme and it had a profound impact on their families and society over generations.”

The Royal British Legion said that the event was to remember “all those who lost their lives in the two World Wars – in particular, the estimated 60,000 Irish men and women from all parts of the Island who served and died in those conflicts”.

Speaking after the event both Mr Givan and Ms O’Neill addressed tensions in the North in the run-up to July 12th.

Ms O’Neill said families living at the interfaces between Catholic and Protestant communities felt that they were “under attack” and while she was prepared to “absolutely endorse everyone’s rights over their culture”, she said there was “no room for bonfires at interface areas”.

Mr Givan called for the celebrations around July 12th to be held in “a respectful manner” and stressed the importance that the “local community in north Belfast are given the space to take us through the next 24 or 48 hours, I’d be hopeful that we will be able to come through the other side of this”.