We must never forget those who paid the ultimate price
Read the stories of Northern Ireland's 10 Victoria Cross heroes at the Somme in this newspaper today. How many of us could have shown such courage, such gallantry, such concern for their comrades in arms as each and every one of them did? They walked unflinching into the line of fire even when they knew that death was a much more probable outcome than life.
Of course, they weren't the only heroes or the only ones to perish in the killing fields of the Somme and all the other conflicts which have succeeded the war that was supposed to end all wars. Think of the soldiers who died in Korea, or Iraq or Afghanistan or those who served and died in the Army, the UDR and the RUC and PSNI during our own horrific, but grubby, Troubles when they were targets in or out of uniform.
Whenever or wherever they died they shared a common goal, to preserve our way of life and our independence from those determined to undermine it.
Tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday, the day when we are asked to remember and pay tribute to those who died. For too long on this island among the nationalist tradition, both north and south of the border, these legions of heroes were airbrushed, if not from history at least from public consciousness.
That was shameful. We do not have parallel histories on this island or in this Province. Our pasts are entwined and complex and as Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Flanagan wrote in this newspaper yesterday, it is time to explore and respect those multiple identities and traditions. It is a timely comment given our continuing inability to get to grips with the legacy of the Troubles.
His government has set out an ambitious and comprehensive programme to commemorate the centenary of the Somme next year and he will be in Belfast tomorrow to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph.
The dead gave everything for us. All they ask is to be remembered. How can we not?