Remembering our Shared Past at The Somme

Last week I participated in a Pilgrimage to The Somme and attended the 96th Anniversary Commemoration Services on 1 July 2012.

I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to pay my respects on behalf of North Down Borough Council to the fallen at the Battle of the Somme. 

Cllr Peter Martin and I at Ulster Memorial Tower with
wreath from North Down Borough Council
The level of shared suffering that endured across the Island of Ireland is vast with 32,186 killed, wounded or missing from 36th (Ulster) Division, 28,398 from 16th (Irish) Division and 9,363 from 10th (Irish) Division. 

After visiting many cemeteries and the wreath laying ceremonies at Thiepval monument, Ulster Memorial Tower and at Guillemont for 16th Irish Division it is clear that we must redouble our efforts to learn more about our Shared Past to build reconciliation and avoid the horrors of war.

I was particularly grateful to meet people from all shades of political opinion united in their desire to commemorate all those who lost their lives during World War One. After laying a wreath at the 16th Irish Division Memorial I was fortunate to meet Dinny McGinley, TD Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs who now regularly attends the Commemorations alongside representatives from the British and French governments plus OFMdFM. 

I also attended the first ever Somme Commemoration at a German Cemetery where the mutual suffering, loss and sorrow was recognised by all present in an extremely moving manner.

Photos of the Pilgrimage can be accessed by clicking here.