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O'Neill makes goodwill visit to Somme battle centre

By Staff Reporter

Michelle O'Neill said her visit to the Somme Heritage Centre yesterday was part of a process of "reaching out the hand of friendship to unionists".

Sinn Fein's Stormont leader was accompanied by the party's national chairperson Declan Kearney at the Newtownards centre, which was hosted by the World War One Commemoration Committee.

"The battles of the First World War and the Battle of the Somme in particular hold a special significance for the unionist community," Mrs O'Neill said.

"We recognise that.

"The commemoration of these events represents a part of the complexity of our shared history.

"I went as a proud Irish republican to recognise the deaths of thousands of Irishmen during the course of the catastrophic imperialist First World War, which claimed millions of lives."

The Mid Ulster MLA said tens of thousands of Irishmen from across the island died in the First World War "and it is important to recognise that. They are part of who we are".

"It is important to show leadership and reach out the hand of friendship to unionists.

Mrs O'Neill also paid tribute to the Somme Heritage Centre for facilitating Sinn Fein's visit to the Somme last year.

The late former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness laid a memorial wreath close to Flanders Field during last year's visit by the Sinn Fein leadership.

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