Belfast Telegraph

Irish minister marks Somme ceremony

A member of the Irish government has attended ceremonies in Belfast to mark the Battle of the Somme for the first time.

Minister of State Alan Kelly later said it was important to remember the battle, in which thousands of men from across Ireland died.

The Somme Commemoration at Belfast city hall was led by Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson.

Soldiers from the 36th Ulster and 16th Irish divisions took part in battle which began on July 1, 1916.

SDLP Councillor Pat McCarthy, who had proposed extending an invitation to the government, said it was a fitting tribute.

Mr McCarthy said: "It is both historic and symbolic that an Irish Government Minister attended Battle of Somme Commemoration this morning.

"For a long time in the history of the Republic that period was forgotten and was something which was never talked about.

"It is welcome that this has now changed and there are many groups which have been formed to look at the history of people from the local area who took part in the First World War."

The move follows the Queen's state visit to the Republic last year where she laid wreaths to both the war dead, and republicans killed fighting British rule.

Mr McCarthy said: "Today we have taken another step along the road to strengthen normal relationships between people of goodwill on the island of Ireland and remembering our shared history."

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