The Mayor of Sinn Fein lays a wreath in Belfast as NI commemorates Somme’s death

Ryan Murphy paid tribute as events took place across Northern Ireland to mark the 107th anniversary of one of the deadliest battles of the First World War.

At Stormont DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson joined party mates in honoring those who died.

A total of 19,240 British troops died in the first 24 hours of fighting – the highest toll in Army history. Another 60,000 were injured or missing.

Nearly a tenth of those who died on the first day were from the 36th (Ulster) Division.

Soldiers from the 16th (Irish) Division also died on the Somme.

Parades and services take place across Northern Ireland on 1 July each year to commemorate the anniversary.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill paid tribute.

He said: “Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, a very important event in our history together as an island.

“We remember all those who lost their lives, and pay special respects to the thousands of people from across the island who died.”

His party partner, Ryan Murphy, laid a wreath at the war memorial at Belfast City Hall.

In a post on Twitter, he said: “Today I pay my respects to those who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme, a very important event in our shared history as an island.

“I am committed to being the mayor of all identities and traditions in our society, regardless of background.”

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, meanwhile, joined DUP colleagues on the grounds of the Stormont estate at the commemoration of the 36th (Ulster) Division.

He said: “We remember the brave young souls who jumped out of their trenches and crossed No Man’s Land and were cut down by their enemies, and who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.”

In France, Alliance councilor Sharon Lowry was part of a delegation from the councils of Lisburn and Castlereagh that attended the commemoration.

His great-uncle, Corporal Edward Louden Barnes of the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the Somme on 28 September 1918 at the age of 22. He was awarded the Military Medal.

Ms Lowry said: “It is very important that we continue to remember the final sacrifice made by thousands of young men from the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Ireland) divisions, and do so in as respectful and inclusive way as possible. .

“Given my family’s personal connection to the battle, I feel even more proud to have attended this event in their memory.

“Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.”

Ulster Union leader Doug Beattie paid tribute on Twitter with a famous quote from an unidentified German soldier.

He posted: “The tragedy of the battle of the Somme is that the best warriors, the bravest men are lost; their numbers can be replaced, their spiritual value can never be.”

Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Today we remember all those who so selflessly gave their lives for our freedom during the First World War.

“The Battle of the Somme, in particular, has an enduring connection with Northern Ireland given the courage and sacrifice of the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) Divisions.

“It is important to recognize the immense debt we owe to these brave personnel who served in such a special way.

“We salute the heroism of all those who fought to defend the freedoms we enjoy today. We will always remember them.”

NIO Minister Steve Baker represented the British Government at the Royal British Legion service in Thiepval and the Somme Association service at Ulster Tower.

Dominic Wilson, Director General and acting permanent secretary at NIO, also paid tribute at the City Hall event.

Mr Baker said: “It is a tremendous privilege to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme at the annual memorial service in France.”

The Battle of the Somme eventually lasted five months as British and French troops engaged the Germans on a 15-mile front in northern France.

By the end of hostilities, the British had only advanced seven miles and failed to break through the German defenses.

In total, more than a million people were killed and wounded on all sides, including 420,000 British, about 200,000 from the French and an estimated 465,000 from the Germans.

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