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MLA's homage to relative written out of family history after being killed in WW1

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 17/08/2016

Claire Hanna
Claire Hanna

An SDLP MLA has described her emotional journey to the grave of a relative who died fighting on the Western Front.

Rifleman Dennis Hanna, of Royal Irish Rifles 1st Battalion, was killed on August 18, 1916.

He was the first cousin of the grandfather of Claire Hanna, the SDLP MLA for South Belfast.

Dennis is buried in the British First World War cemetery at Vermelles, near Lens in northern France.

Ms Hanna said the visit was "to pay a debt of honour and respect". She also said prayers for all the fallen at the graveside.

Recalling the experience in today's Belfast Telegraph, she writes: "My grandfather, Patrick Joseph Hanna, had no brothers and he and Dennis were close."

She said her grandfather's family was strongly nationalist and never mentioned the fate of Dennis. "Like so many of the dead of World War One, (he) was effectively written out of family history," she writes.

Ms Hanna adds: "The decade of centenaries and, in particular, the focus on the 1916 Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme have, for many, opened a window on family history that was once firmly closed.

"There are so many questions that I have about Dennis, not just the circumstances of his death, which was probably awful and, as in so many war deaths, wasteful and unnecessary."

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