A two minutes’ silence was observed at the Garden of Remembrance at Belfast City Hall this morning to mark the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
The annual commemoration was attended by Armed Forces personnel, former servicemen and women, and political and religious leaders.
The Union flag was flown at half mast, the Last Post was sounded and wreaths were laid at the cenotaph in memory of the thousands of men from across Ireland who made the ultimate sacrifice for King and country during the bloody battle, which began on July 1, 1916.
Among those who laid wreaths were Secretary of State Karen Bradley MP, Irish government minister Joe McHugh TD and Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for Belfast, Mrs Fionnuala-O’Boyle CBE.
Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Peter McReynolds, read out a council resolution recording its gratitude to “the brave men of the 36th (Ulster) Division, the 16th (Irish) Division and other forces who, by their glorious conduct in that battle, made an imperishable name for themselves and their people and whose heroism will never be forgotten.”
The Lord Mayor, Sinn Fein Councillor John Finucane, stayed away from the official commemorative event, instead laying a laurel wreath at the cenotaph in a low-key ceremony early on Monday morning.
Cllr Finucane said he thought about his great-great-grandfather who died at the Somme as he laid a wreath to commemorate all those killed in the battle.
The main commemoration was attended by representatives of the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and Royal British Legion, as well as clergy from all of Northern Ireland’s main religious denominations.
The Band of the Royal Irish Regiment played while wreaths were laid at the cenotaph by Armed Forces and veterans’ association representatives, and political leaders including DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds MP and Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann.