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Sinn Fein may join Somme events

Sinn Fein will consider attending events in Belfast to mark next year's centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the party's city mayor has vowed.

Arder Carson said he hoped commemorations to mark the 100th anniversaries of both the First World War battle and the 1916 Easter Rising would be as inclusive as possible.

On the 99th anniversary of the battle's first day, Mr Carson today laid a laurel wreath at the cenotaph at Belfast City Hall in a separate low-key event ahead of the main British Legion ceremony.

In doing so he was following an approach adopted by former Sinn Fein mayors Alex Maskey, Tom Hartley, Niall O Donnghaile and Mairtin O'Muilleoir.

Mr O'Muilleoir did make history in November 2013 by becoming the first Sinn Fein mayor to attend a Remembrance Day service at the cenotaph.

Party mayors have yet to attend the main Battle of the Somme ceremony amid concerns about British military trappings.

Mr Carson said Sinn Fein would assess the plans for the 100th anniversary commemorations before deciding whether to attend.

"These things we keep under consideration all of the time, there are discussions and engagements all the time in relation to these type of events," he said.

"I thought it was important for me to be here today as a republican in Belfast city and as mayor of the city as a mark of respect for everyone who lost someone in the First World War."

Mr Carson said next year's two major centenaries would commemorate seminal events that had shaped the history of Ireland.

"They are both going to be marked in the city, they are both going to be marked with respect and dignity," he said.

"I would prefer to see those as inclusive events. I know that is our intention around the 1916 (Rising) event, that it is as inclusive as possible, and I would assume that it will be the same in relation to the Somme."

British troops negotiate a trench during the Battle of the Somme
British troops negotiate a trench during the Battle of the Somme

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