Suffering at the Somme universal and shared – Mayor Deborah Girvan

Ards and North Down Mayor, Alderman Deborah Girvan, has spoken about her recent visit to France to commemorate the Battle of Guillemot, which took place between 3rd and 6th September 1916. The battle resulted in 224 officers and 4,090 men from the 16th (Irish) Division being killed or wounded between 3 – 9 September 1916.

The service at Guillemot, which was organised by the Somme Association, was also attended by James Brokenshire MP, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht from the Republic of Ireland.

Mayor Girvan laid a wreath with Councillor Nigel Edmund at 16th Irish Division Memorial Cross in Guillemont whilst also visiting The Ulster Memorial Tower, Thiepval Wood, Menin Gate, Tyne Cot Memorial and Cemetery, the Island of Ireland Peace Park plus Arras and Somme areas generally.

Speaking about the event, Mayor Girvan said: “After attending many heart-rendering local commemorations to remember those who died during the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago on 1 July 1916, I felt it was important as First Citizen to visit the Somme and pay my respects in person for those who made the ultimate sacrifice regardless of religion or background.

“The story of the Battle of Guillemot is profound, with those from the 16th Irish who fought then serving alongside the 36th Ulster Division for the next year, developing bonds and friendships from home whilst Ireland faced an uncertain and divided future.

“Only in recent years are these stories of gallantry, heroism and sacrifice across the political and religious divides of Ireland now being told and thankfully recognised. Only by learning from our Shared History can we build a truly Shared Future, based upon respect and a desire to learn and never repeat horrors of the past. The level of shared suffering that endured across the Island of Ireland is vast, with 32,186 killed, wounded or missing from 36th (Ulster) Division, 28,398 from 16th (Irish) Division and 9,363 from 10th (Irish) Division.

“As we commemorate yet another key moment during the centenary of the First World War, we must all remember and reflect upon how we can build reconciliation and peace as a lasting legacy for those who gave their tomorrows for our today. It was a very moving and emotional moment when The Exhortation was recited at the service by General David O’Morchoe, the President of the British Legion, Republic of Ireland: They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

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