Irish minister to attend Somme centenary event

Irish minister Heather Humphreys, left, pictured with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, at a First World War Remembrance service in Belfast in 2014
Irish minister Heather Humphreys, left, pictured with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, at a First World War Remembrance service in Belfast in 2014

A centenary commemoration for the Battle of the Somme in Strabane will be attended by the Republic of Ireland Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht.

Heather Humphreys TD, a Presbyterian from Co Monaghan, will be one of a number of VIPs remembering men from both sides of the Strabane community who lost their lives in the First World War battle in France.

Assistant Secretary of the Strabane Branch of the Royal British Legion William Sayers said a special parade and Drumhead church service will take place on Sunday.

“The parade will begin at the bowling green outside the Church of Ireland for inspection by his Grace the Duke of Abercorn at 2.15pm,” he said.

“We expect up to 150 in the parade with a large congregation for the service at Strabane Presbyterian Church.”

The Battle of the Somme lasted from July 1 to November 18, 1916, but on the first day alone some 20 local men were killed – at least one third of them coming from the nationalist community.

“We are appealing for a good turnout from local people.

“The event will be open to both sides of the community and we would welcome anyone who wishes to come along to represent some individual they may know.”

The parade will be led by the Cowan Memorial Flute Ban from Sion Mills and will include the Boys’ Brigade, Girls’ Brigade, Scouts and Guides.

Over 3,500 Irish soldiers from across the island died in the battle, with many more wounded.