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Northern Ireland schools will play a part in WWI centenary: Theresa Villiers

By Anna Maguire

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has vowed to include local children in commemoration visits to First World War battlefields.

It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that local schoolchildren would not be able to avail of the scheme.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced a series of events this week to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

The centenary of Armistice Day in 1918 — and the dates of major battles, such as the Somme and Gallipoli — will also be marked.

However, the scheme only extends to school pupils in England — fuelling calls for an extension here.

Ulster Unionist Party Assembly Member Michael Copeland told the Belfast Telegraph that the Executive should take action.

“These are difficult financial times, but a nation that forgets its past is doomed to repeat its failures,” the East Belfast MLA said — revealing that he is tabling an Assembly question regarding the war commemorations.

Those calls are being headed by the recently-installed Northern Ireland Secretary of State.

Ms Villiers (left) said last night: “It is my intention to work closely with ministerial colleagues from the NI Executive to ensure that all parts of the community in Northern Ireland can participate, alongside everyone across the UK, in the initiatives set out by the Prime Minister.”

She added: “WWI profoundly affected the whole community across Northern Ireland and involved terrible sacrifice.

“It is important that a century on, this generation recognises and pays tribute to those who gave so much for our country.”

David Cameron has announced a £5.3m educational programme for school pupils — which will include trips to the battlefields.

The funding has been drawn from a pot of £50m earmarked for the centenary events.

Mr Cameron said that he wants a truly national commemoration, “which captures our national spirit in every corner of the country”.

Northern Ireland’s Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has previously stated that it is up to individual schools here how they choose to commemorate the upcoming centenaries.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph