Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill visits Somme Heritage Centre: 'It's important to reach out the hand of friendship to unionists'
Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill has said her visit to the Somme Heritage Centre in Co Down was "part of a process of building understanding between the differing traditions".
Ms O'Neill was accompanied by the party’s national chairperson Declan Kearney during the visit on Thursday, which was hosted by the WW1 Commemoration Committee.
Ms O'Neill said: "The battles of the First World War and the Battle of the Somme in particular hold a special significance for the Unionist community. 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 Irish men during the course of the catastrophic imperialist First World War, which claimed millions of lives.
"Tens of thousands of Irish men 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.
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"We acknowledge the efforts of the Somme Heritage Centre in facilitating the Sinn Féin leadership visit to the Somme in June last year and today’s visit is following up on that invitation.
"Sinn Féin undertook this visit as part of a process of building understanding between the differing traditions in the North.
"We thank the Somme Heritage Centre and the WW1 Commemoration Committee for the invitation and look forward to further engagement."