Somme: Heroism of Irish remembered at Belfast ceremony

Jeffrey Donaldson said annual ceremony was particularly poignant this year

Wreaths are layed at the Stone of Remembrance after the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Wreaths are layed at the Stone of Remembrance after the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thiepval Memorial in Thiepval, France. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

The heroism of the thousands of Irishmen killed at the Battle of the Somme “will never be forgotten” the Lord Mayor of Belfast said at Belfast city hall yesterday.

Brian Kingston said the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division and the 16th (Irish) Division made the supreme sacrifice during the First World War.

Mr Kingston led a procession for the centenary commemoration to the Cenotaph in the Garden of Remembrance in city hall grounds, where the union flag was brought to half mast during a wreath laying ceremony, during which the Band of Irish Guards played Londonderry Air/Danny Boy and other songs.

He was accompanied by the under secretary of state for Northern Ireland minister Ben Wallace, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, and church and military representatives, among others.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the annual ceremony was particularly poignant this year. “We remember those young men who went over the top and not just the 36th Ulster Division but the men of the 16th Irish Division who gave their lives as well at the Somme,” he said.

“I think it is good to see so many people today and at the same time as events are taking place in France as well.

“There has been a lot of effort put in to ensure the centenary commemorations are inclusive and respectful and I think they have achieved that,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said it was important for a representative of the Government to attend the event.

“It is important to remember that 100 years ago lots of Irish people fought in the First World War from both communities and from both parts of the island,” he said.

“Some for King and country, some fighting for the freedom of small nations, and it is very appropriate I think that we come together on this day to remember them because they are an enormous part of our history.”

“Also, I think particularly given the events of last week, with the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, keeping a strong relationship between Dublin and Belfast is going to be absolutely crucial,” he said.