Battle of the Somme commemoration: Wreaths laid and silence observed in memory of heroes of Great War

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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.

Wreaths are laid at the cenotaph in Belfast during the annual ceremony to remember those who gave their lives during the Battle of the Somme. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Wreaths are laid at the cenotaph in Belfast during the annual ceremony to remember those who gave their lives during the Battle of the Somme. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

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.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley was among those who attended the event at Belfast City Hall to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley was among those who attended the event at Belfast City Hall to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

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.

Nigel Dodds MP was joined by fellow MPs Emma Little-Pengelly and Gavin Robinson as he laid a wreath on behalf of the DUP. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Nigel Dodds MP was joined by fellow MPs Emma Little-Pengelly and Gavin Robinson as he laid a wreath on behalf of the DUP. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley MP lays a wreath on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley MP lays a wreath on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The 103rd anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, in which Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men of the 36th (Ulster) Division, the 16th (Irish) Division and other forces made the supreme sacrifice, is commemorated at the cenotaph in the Garden of Remembrance at Belfast City Hall. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The 103rd anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, in which Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men of the 36th (Ulster) Division, the 16th (Irish) Division and other forces made the supreme sacrifice, is commemorated at the cenotaph in the Garden of Remembrance at Belfast City Hall. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane lays a laurel wreath at the City Hall in remembrance of those killed at the Somme. Pic: Stephen Hamilton-Presseye

Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane lays a laurel wreath at the City Hall in remembrance of those killed at the Somme. Pic: Stephen Hamilton-Presseye