Northern Ireland

Battle of the Somme commemorated in Belfast

Sinn Féin Lord Mayor John Finucane lays a laurel wreath at Belfast City Hall, to mark anniversary of Battle of Somme Image copyright David Young/PA
Image caption Sinn Féin Lord Mayor John Finucane lays a laurel wreath at Belfast City Hall, to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Sinn Féin Lord Mayor John Finucane were among those to have marked in Belfast the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Mr Finucane laid a laurel wreath at the cenotaph at City Hall saying it was both a personal and political act.

The Battle of the Somme began on 1 July 1916 and remains the bloodiest in the Army's history.

A total of 19,240 British troops were killed within 24 hours.

Almost a tenth of those who died that first day were from the 36th Ulster Division.

Mr Finucane said that his taking part in the commemorations consolidated moves taken by former Sinn Féin Mayors "to reach out to unionists". 

"It clearly shows that republicans are committed to engaging with unionists and loyalists and that we are prepared to meet them on common ground," he said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nearly 20,000 British troops were killed on a single day at the Battle of the Somme in 1916

"This is what making peace is all about. I am keen to show the continued commitment that republicans in this city have to building bridges into the unionist and loyalist community. 

"I believe we need to have an open and rational debate about how civic institutions commemorate these events in our shared past in an inclusive fashion."

Mrs Bradley said it was a great privilege to represent the government at ceremonies marking the anniversary.

"As we pause to remember such huge loss and reflect on the horrors of war, it is important to recall the immense debt of gratitude we owe those brave personnel who served with such distinction," she said.

"We salute the heroism of all those who voluntarily chose to bear arms in the defence of the freedoms we enjoy, and take for granted today. We will always remember them."

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