Europe

Theresa Villiers attends Somme commemoration in Dublin

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Media captionMore than 3,500 soldiers from Ireland who lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme were remembered in the ceremony

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and representatives of the NI Assembly have attended a Somme centenary commemoration at the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Dublin.

The event began at Islandbridge at noon on Saturday. It was held in conjunction with the Royal British Legion.

Approximately 3,500 soldiers from the island of Ireland lost their lives in the battle.

The event was also attended by Irish President Michael D Higgins.

President Higgins laid a wreath on behalf of the people of Ireland.

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Image caption Secretary of State Theresa Villiers lays a wreath at the ceremony
Image copyright Brian Lawless/PA
Image caption Irish President Michael D Higgins also laid a wreath at the event at the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Dublin

Taoiseach (Irish prime-minister) Enda Kenny, as well as representatives from the UK, were also present.

The ambassadors of the eight countries that fought at the Somme, as well as NI Economy Minister Simon Hamilton, Ms Villiers and the presidents of the Royal British Legion (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), also laid wreaths.

'Special ceremony'

The British Ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott, and the UK defence attaché, Colonel Max Walker, also attended.

Image copyright Irish Defence Forces
Image caption The names of 49,400 Irish casualties of WW1 are listed on the war memorial

Speaking in advance of the commemoration, Ms Villiers said she was "honoured to represent the UK government at this very special ceremony".

"Tens of thousands of men from Ireland volunteered to fight in the Great War and gave their lives serving in the uniform of the British Army. So it is fitting that the Irish government have ensured that those brave men are now being remembered for the part they played," she said.

"In particular, we commemorate today all those from the 16th Irish Division who sustained an agonising 4,300 casualties in successfully capturing Guillemont and Ginchy in September 1916.

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Image caption Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny with Irish soldiers at Saturday's ceremony

"Just as in Great Britain, so across the island of Ireland there was virtually no corner left unaffected by the Battle of the Somme. The contribution and sacrifice of the men who fought in the battle was immense, and we should never forget it."

The Northern Ireland Assembly speaker Robin Newton was at the ceremony representing the Northern Ireland Executive.

"Given the huge loss of life and its impact on our history, it is only fitting that the Battle of the Somme has been marked by a range of events within our society, including at the assembly two weeks ago," he said.

"With my responsibilities for representing the entire assembly, it is important that I should be involved in emphasising that the Somme did not just affect one part of our community. I am therefore pleased to be able to represent the assembly at the commemoration in Dublin."

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Image caption Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Ms Villiers at the commemoration

During a ceremony interwoven with religious readings and historical reflections, school choirs sang and an actor read the evocative war poem, In Flanders Fields.

The Last Post was also sounded after a minute's silence.

The ceremony closed with the raising of the Irish Tricolour from half to full mast and the playing of the Irish national anthem.

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Image caption Members of the Royal British Legion also attended