Having been invited to attend, almost unanimously, by Belfast City Council, an Irish Government Minister has taken part in the Battle of the Somme commemorations at Belfast City Hall for the first time. From the BBC report
Soldiers from across Ireland fought side by side in the World War I.
As with previous years, Sinn Fein councillors did not attend the main commemoration.
[Alan Kelly TD, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport], who laid a wreath, said: “I think it’s very important that today we acknowledge the sacrifices that have been made, not just in this jurisdiction but also the Republic indeed.
“Over the last number of years more and more acknowledgement has gone to those who sacrificed their lives during both wars.”
The Battle of the Somme claimed the lives of 420,000 British soldiers.
French casualties were estimated at 195,000 and the German loss of life was around 650,000.
The UTV report adds
Lord Mayor of Belfast Gavin Robinson said Sunday’s event was “hugely important.”
The DUP Alderman added: “I’m glad so many people did turn out for what was a very poignant and respectful commemoration service here at City Hall.
He said that the minister’s participation builds on the “momentous presence” of the Queen in Dublin last year.
The monarch visited the Garden of Remembrance in the Irish capital city and laid a wreath in memory of those who died fighting [for] Irish independence from Britain.
SDLP Councillor Pat McCarthy described Minister Kelly’s attendance as both “historic and symbolic.”
He added: “For a long time in the history of the Republic that period was forgotten and was something which was never talked about.
“Today we have taken another step along the road to strengthen normal relationships between people of goodwill on the island of Ireland and remembering our shared history.”