'Royal Irish Rifles ration party Somme July 1916', courtesy of the United Kingdom Government.

British and Irish ministers attend services in France for 97th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

Posted on centenarynews.com on 01 July 2013
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Services are being held to mark the 97th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, with British and Irish politicians amongst the representatives in France to mark the first day of the battle.

The Battle of the Somme began on the 1st July 1916 and was one of the largest battles fought during the conflict.

The Republic of Ireland's Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley TD, will attend at the memorial services on the Somme where commemorations will take place at Thiepval, Guillemont and at the Ulster Tower.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Joe Costello TD, will represent the Government at commemorations in Belfast.

Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, will represent the UK Government at Somme commemorations in France.

The Minister will be taking part in the Royal British Legion service of commemoration at Thiepval and the Somme Association services at the Ulster Tower and Guillemont. She will lay wreaths on behalf of the Government.

The Northern Ireland Secretary stated:

"It is a great honour for me to be at Thiepval to represent Her Majesty’s Government on this deeply moving and solemn occasion. We must never forget those who gave their lives for our country during that terrible conflict. The losses at the Somme were without parallel in British military history".

"The 36th Ulster Division suffered massive casualties, but their bravery was truly heroic leading one eye-witness to say that ‘Their attack was one of the finest displays of human courage in the world’. As a result, the Somme has left an indelible mark on Northern Ireland. I say this mindful of the vital role that so many men and women from Northern Ireland continue to play in our superb Armed Forces across the word today".

"It is also fitting that today we remember the sacrifice of the 16th (Irish) Division at Guillemont and elsewhere. They, too, suffered terribly. And I am delighted that once again we are joined by Dinny McGinley TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht representing the Irish Government. His presence reminds us that volunteers from throughout the whole of Ireland made the supreme sacrifice".

To read the full press release by the Government of the Republic of Ireland, click here.

To read the full press release by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, click here.

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News