Northern Ireland

Attwood pays tribute to war 'sacrifice' of great-uncle

Alex Attwood
Image caption Alex Attwood will meet young people who are learning about the world wars on the trip

Social Development minister Alex Attwood is visiting a memorial in Belgium which honours the sacrifice of his great-uncle during World War One.

The memorial at Nieuport also features the names of more than 500 others who lie in unknown graves.

The SDLP MLA said he would be the first from his generation of the family to visit it.

He will also meet young people from Belfast who are learning about both world wars.

Mr Attwood said: "In July 1917, my great-uncle, the man whom I am named after, was killed during the Great War.

"His body lies in an unmarked grave but his name is inscribed on a memorial at Nieuport on the Belgium coast, along with the names of 527 other men who lie in unknown graves.

"I will be the first of my generation of Attwoods to visit the memorial and to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of my great uncle."

The west Belfast representative said he believed there should be an acknowledgment of the experience of many families on the island of Ireland, whose members "fought in the First and Second World Wars and who paid with their lives".

"This is part of our history," he said.

"It is also part of our history that the British Army has been responsible for many wrongs on the island of Ireland.

"It is also the case that the British Army is sent to fight in wars that I and many like me, do not agree with.

"But there are many of the nationalist tradition who acknowledge that part of our family experience has included family involvement in world wars.

Messines

"Indeed, in visiting the memorial that bears the name of my great-uncle Alex, I very much wish to acknowledge his courage and his sacrifice. "

Mr Attwood said he would also "visit the memorial at Messines, Ypres, Tyne-Cot Cemetery at Passendale, the resting place of Major Willie Redmond and the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines."

He said he would meet with students from the Boys Model secondary school and a Christian Brothers school in north Belfast.

"They will be learning that many men and boys their own age, generations beforehand, perhaps indeed from their own families, who joined the British Army, fought and died, showing courage in doing so," he added.

"My visit is a personal journey, one which I have discussed with my parents, who chose to name me not only after my great-uncle Alex but also my uncle Alex, my father's brother, a man from Cork who joined the British Army during World War Two."

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