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Charles Flanagan is set to attend Belfast Somme event

By Amanda Ferguson

Published 30/06/2015

Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan
Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan

The Republic's Foreign Affairs Minister will make history this week as the first senior Irish minister to lay a wreath at a Somme commemoration in Belfast.

Charles Flanagan will represent the Irish government at City Hall's Garden of Remembrance to mark the 99th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Around 3,500 men from the 36th (Ulster) Division and the 16th (Irish) Division lost their lives in the gunfire and explosions.

A traditional wreath-laying ceremony will take place at the Cenotaph led by deputy Lord Mayor, Guy Spence. Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, First Minister Peter Robinson and Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle, will also be in attendance.

Mr Flanagan said he was honoured to represent the Irish government at "this important commemoration".

"While the Battle of the Somme has a particular resonance in Northern Ireland, it was a significant event for this island as a whole," he said.

Meanwhile, east Belfast DUP MLA Robin Newton said he was hopeful a Somme commemoration parade on July 1 "will be free from controversy or dispute".

Mr Newton said: "Every year since 1917, Ballymacarret District LOL No 6 has commemorated the sacrifice made by the 36th Ulster Division at the Battle of the Somme. The commemoration should receive the respect it deserves.

"Those who would seek to tarnish or besmirch this act of remembrance should think about the husbands and sons who made the ultimate sacrifice or suffered the awful injuries of war."

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