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

Northern Ireland Ulster Unionist Party Leader's call to mark Somme Centenary

Posted on centenarynews.com on 25 March 2013
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Date of publication: 24/03/2013

Mike Nesbitt, Party Leader of Northern Ireland's Ulster Unionist Party, has called for the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme to be marked with funding for educational visits to the battlefield for schoolchildren.

Mr. Nesbitt also stated that the Centenary was an opportunity to further reconciliation efforts within Northern Ireland and with the Republic of Ireland.

In a speech which covered a variety of issues, being made by Mr. Nesbitt at the Ulster Unionist Party Annual General Conference 2013, he stated: "let us encourage every primary school in Northern Ireland to study the story of the Somme".

"The 36th Ulster Division. The 16th Irish Division. Standing shoulder to shoulder. Dying – shoulder to shoulder, in common cause against a common enemy".

Turning to how to fund the initiative for schoolchildren to visit the Somme, Mr. Nesbitt stated that "a million pounds [should be put] aside from the budget and get matched funding from business and elsewhere to make it two million. And then let us send a delegation of our children to the Somme on the 1st of July next year, 2014".

Mr. Nesbitt called for the process of sending children to the Somme to learn about the conflict to be repeated in 2015 and 2016 as well.

Mr. Nesbitt continued that the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme was an opportunity to "send schoolchildren from England, Scotland and Wales... from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to the Somme, to share that common bond, and common understanding of the human cost of conflict".

This, Mr. Nesbitt stated, would be "part of our contribution to Reconciliation... part of our contribution to strengthening the Union... part of our contribution to fostering better relations with the Republic of Ireland".

To read the full speech made by Mr. Nesbitt, visit the Ulster Unionist Party website here.

Posted by: Daniel Barry, Centenary News