François Hollande to visit Ireland as part of Somme commemorations

French President François Hollande is to visit Ireland later this month, it emerged yesterday.

François Hollande to visit Ireland as part of Somme commemorations

Taoiseach Enda Kenny revealed Mr Hollande’s visit at the Oireachtas finance committee, saying it would form part of the 100-year commemorations of the Battle of the Somme.

Details of the visit are not yet finalised, but Mr Hollande is not expected to stay overnight in Ireland.

According to sources, his state visit will take in a bilateral meeting with Mr Kenny, and possibly a meeting with President Michael D Higgins, as well as the commemoration event itself.

The French embassy in Dublin had no comment on Mr Kenny’s announcement, but Mr Hollande’s visit has been confirmed by Paris.

Mr Kenny held a bilateral meeting with Mr Hollande last September and the French leader was pictured with Transport Minister Shane Ross at Ireland’s final game in Lyon at the Euro Championships.

The Department of An Taoiseach said it had no details of the trip available yesterday.

President Higgins will attend commemoration events in France today while Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and senior royals will lead events in the UK.

A series of commemorations will take place throughout this week.

President Higgins and Arts Minister Heather Humphreys will attend commemorations in France to mark the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.

A ceremony will take place today at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which was built between 1928 and 1932 to honour the 72,195 UK and South African soldiers whose bodies were never recovered following the battle.

Also today, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla will attend other ceremonies for Northern Irish and Canadian victims of the battle at the nearby Ulster Tower and Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, respectively.

Prince William and his wife Kate and his brother Prince Harry will also attend the event.

Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, will also lay a wreath at the grave of her great-uncle, Captain Harry Cubitt, who was killed on the Somme in September 1916 while serving with the Coldstream Guards.

He was the eldest, and the first, to die of three brothers killed serving on the Western Front.

In the UK, the nation will fall silent for two minutes during tomorrow morning to remember the sacrifices of all those who fought and lost their lives.

At Westminster Abbey the queen and her husband Philip last night joined the congregation for an evening commemoration — on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle.

And in France, William, Kate, and Harry attended a vigil in memory of the fallen.

The services marked the beginning of events across the UK and France marking the start of the battle on July 1, 1916, a day that became the bloodiest in British military history with almost 20,000 dead.

By the end of the four-month battle in northern France, more than 1m soldiers had been killed and wounded on both sides of the fighting.

The First World War would drag on for another two years.

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