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Silence falls across province as we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice

From Belfast to Enniskillen, tributes are paid to mark Battle of Somme 100 years on

By Chris McCullough

Published 02/07/2016

Lord Mayor Brian Kingston led the Somme ceremony in Belfast with wreath-laying at the Cenotaph
Lord Mayor Brian Kingston led the Somme ceremony in Belfast with wreath-laying at the Cenotaph
Lord Mayor Brian Kingston led the Somme ceremony in Belfast with wreath-laying at the Cenotaph
Lord Mayor Brian Kingston led the Somme ceremony in Belfast with wreath-laying at the Cenotaph
Members of the Apprentice Boys of Derry at the War Memorial in the city
A service in Rathfriland
Robin Cole lays a wreath in a service at Ballycastle
A service in Bushmills

Thousands of people across Northern Ireland have taken part in events to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

From Enniskillen to Lisburn and Belfast to Bushmills, a number of ceremonies were held to remember soldiers who lost their lives in the five-month battle, in which more than 19,200 troops were killed on the first day.

Of that number, 2,069 were from the 36th Ulster Division.

One hundred years later, people turned out in force to remember those who paid the ultimate price during the war.

While First Minister Arlene Foster travelled to France to lay a wreath to the Fallen from Northern Ireland, other politicians paid their respects at commemorations across the country.

On Thursday night, a solemn vigil was held at the Somme Museum near Newtownards to remember the dead.

More than 500 people paid tribute at the Belfast City Hall Cenotaph yesterday morning at an annual wreath-laying ceremony that was also attended by politicians and dignitaries.

The Union flag was lowered to half-mast and the Last Post was played before the commemorative wreaths were laid.

DUP politicians Gavin Robinson, William McCrea and William Humphrey laid garlands during the ceremony, as did UUP politicians Lord Empey, Jim Nicholson and Danny Kinahan. A number of SDLP politicians were also present.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast Brian Kingston said he was honoured to lay a wreath of behalf of the people of Belfast to remember men from both the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division.

"It is a great honour for me to lay a wreath 100 years following the Battle of the Somme in memory of all the soldiers who lost their lives," he added.

"There are so many people across this city that lost a loved one in the battle. The losses during the first day were truly shocking.

"I have been the Lord Mayor of Belfast for just a month, but I was looking forward to this as one of my first major jobs.

"It truly is a great honour for me to lay a wreath to remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice at the Battle of the Somme."

Also attending was Irish minister for social protection Leo Varadkar, who said: "There were a lot of people from Ireland who lost their lives in the battle, and it is fitting to pay tribute to them.

"We will also remember the Fallen in the War Memorial Garden in Dublin.

"Ten years ago we would not have even thought about holding such a commemoration, but its good to see how things have changed."

In east Belfast, a special dawn commemoration service and parade was held by the Cregagh Defenders LOL 1588 to mark the centenary.

Down the road in Lisburn, soldiers at Thiepval Barracks gathered at the Thiepval Memorial for their own commemorative ceremony.

At Hillsborough Castle, meanwhile, the 206 (Ulster) Battery Royal Artillery fired a L118 gun.

In Co Fermanagh, the Ulster History Circle and UUP MLA Tom Elliott unveiled a plaque in Enniskillen to commemorate Eric Bell, who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War.

Also in Fermanagh, at Enniskillen Castle, a number of glowing and heartfelt tributes were paid to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers who were killed during the first two days of the Battle of the Somme.

Later in the day, a new memorial window was dedicated at a service in St Macartin's Cathedral in Enniskillen to all the Inniskilling casualties.

Belfast Telegraph

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