Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Crowd gathers for Somme service

Owen Paterson and Peter Robinson in France, where they laid wreaths and remembered those who lost their lives at the Somme
Owen Paterson and Peter Robinson in France, where they laid wreaths and remembered those who lost their lives at the Somme

A large crowd gathered outside Belfast City Hall for a service of remembrance on the 95th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

The sun came out briefly as The Royal Irish Regiment led proceedings in memory of those who served in the 36th Ulster Division and 16th Irish Division, its guard of honour accompanied by the brass instruments of The Light Cavalry Band.

A procession towards the cenotaph included members of various religious groups, leaders of the Orange Order and representatives of the Armed Forces, who came out in force to pay their respects.

The congregation looked on in silence as wreaths were laid at the monument - which was surrounded by Royal Irish sentries, by decorated ex-servicemen and political representatives, including UUP leader Tom Elliott and Nigel Dodds of the DUP.

The sombre nature of the occasion was emphasised by the Reveille sounded by a bugler as the Union Flag was raised to full mast at the end of the event.

The DUP Deputy Lord Mayor Alderman Ruth Patterson read the Resolution passed by the council in place of Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile, who followed in the footsteps of party predecessors by not attending. Mr O Donnghaile laid his own wreath two hours before the official ceremony began.

"It is extremely important that we must never forget the sacrifice that these men from the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division gave at the Battle of the Somme," Ms Patterson said. "We must never forget any war that has taken place in the past or currently ongoing."

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Owen Paterson was in France to represent the British Government at Thiepval, the Ulster Tower and Guillemont, where he laid wreaths and remembered all those who lost their lives at the Somme.

"I reflect with respect and heartfelt admiration, the connection that the people of Northern Ireland have with the Somme, and also with the vital role many perform today serving in our Armed Forces across the world," Mr Paterson said.

"I also pay tribute to organisations such as the Somme Heritage Centre who work tirelessly to ensure the future generations learn about the Battle of the Somme and help ensure that what happened on 1 July 1916 is never forgotten."

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