Government may take part in Somme ceremonies

IN an all-Ireland reconciliation move, the Government has signalled it could take part in Belfast’s official ceremonies to mark the battle of the Somme and Remembrance Sunday.

A spokesman said it would look positively to any invitation from Belfast City Council to have a representative attend its solemn armistice ceremonies in the North’s capital.

“If any invitation were to be received from Belfast City Council for the Irish Government to be represented at the Somme and Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Northern Ireland, the Government would look positively at being represented,” the spokesman said.

The SDLP on the city council won the backing of Unionist parties to extend an invitation for a move intended to honour Irish people who died in the First World War.

SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy said: “For a long time in the history of the Republic that period was forgotten and was something which was never talked about, but that has now changed and there are many groups which have been formed to look at the history of people from the local area who took part in the First World War — indeed, it is to be welcomed, as it is part of the complex relationships between all parts of Ireland.”

Mr McCarthy said times were changing, including attitudes to those who died during the First World War.

He said inviting the Government to the commemorations would be a sign of goodwill and would help strengthen north-south relations.

Mr McCarthy also pointed out that the Queen’s historic visit to Dublin last May would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.

President Michael D Higgins’ first official duty saw him attend a Remembrance Sunday service in Patrick’s Cathedral.

He also laid a wreath at the foot of the cathedral’s war memorial in honour of those who died during both world wars.

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