The Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is today (Monday 1 July) representing the UK Government at the annual Somme commemoration in France. The events are held to pay tribute and respect to those who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War and in the whole of British military history.
The Secretary of State will be taking part Royal British Legion service of commemoration at Thiepval and the Somme Association services at the Ulster Tower and Guillemont. She will lay wreaths on behalf of the Government.
Theresa Villiers said:
It is a great honour for me to be at Thiepval to represent Her Majesty’s Government on this deeply moving and solemn occasion. We must never forget those who gave their lives for our country during that terrible conflict. The losses at the Somme were without parallel in British military history.
The 36th Ulster Division suffered massive casualties, but their bravery was truly heroic leading one eye-witness to say that ‘Their attack was one of the finest displays of human courage in the world’. As a result, the Somme has left an indelible mark on Northern Ireland. I say this mindful of the vital role that so many men and women from Northern Ireland continue to play in our superb Armed Forces across the word today.
It is also fitting that today we remember the sacrifice of the 16th (Irish) Division at Guillemont and elsewhere. They, too, suffered terribly. And I am delighted that once again we are joined by Dinny McGinley TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht representing the Irish Government. His presence reminds us that volunteers from throughout the whole of Ireland made the supreme sacrifice.
I also pay tribute to organisations such as the Royal British Legion and the Somme Heritage Centre who work tirelessly to ensure that future generations learn about the Battle of the Somme and help ensure that what happened on 1 July 1916 is never forgotten.