Northern Ireland news

Sinn Fein mayor John Finucane joins with the British Legion to pay tribute to war dead

John Finucane takes part in a service at Belfast city hall where a minute's silence was observed to commemorate the war dead. Picture by Hugh Russell.

BELFAST'S Sinn Fein mayor joined with the British Legion to pay tribute to the fallen as the city marked the Armistice.

John Finucane, who lost two relatives in the First World War, joined those braving the wind and rain at the cenotaph for a minute's silence to commemorate the war dead.

Dozens gathered at the cenotaph for the short ceremony at 11am.

Mr Finucane's presence was in keeping with recent Sinn Féin mayors of Belfast.

The party has participated in the Armistice ceremony, and laid laurel wreaths on July's anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, but has declined to participate in any Remembrance Sunday events, claiming there are excessive British military trappings on show.

Mr Finucane said he felt it was important to attend the commemoration.

"In the words of the British Legion that were read out today, I think it is really important to remember all of those who were killed in what was unprecedented slaughter in the First World War at the time," he said afterwards.

"I am quite mindful of it as well as I have relatives who were killed both in France and Belgium in the First World War and I think it's important that we remember everybody who died between 1914 and 1918.

"I think it's appropriate especially with me as mayor that I am here today to pay tribute and remember also."

A ceremony was also held at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin to mark the 101st anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, which ended the First World War.

During the ceremony, five Victoria Cross commemorative plaques were unveiled, dedicated to five soldiers from different ranks who showed extreme bravery during the conflict between 1914 and 1918.

More than 40 countries were represented at the service, and officials laid wreaths at the Irish military plot before The Last Post was played and the tricolour was returned to full mast.

A minute's silence was observed at 11am to remember those who died during the First World War.

About 200,000 Irish men and women served in the British forces during the First World War and about 35,000 died.

David Bunworth, chairman of Glasnevin Trust, said the annual Armistice Day commemoration provides an opportunity "to remember the many brave men and women from across the island of Ireland and beyond, who gave their lives in the cause of peace".

He added: "The Cross of Sacrifice under which we laid commemorative wreaths this morning is a lasting tribute of the enormous sacrifices made during this tragic time in our history.

"I hope this annual commemoration acts as a reminder of the importance of peace and reconciliation."

Following the event, the French ambassador to Ireland, Stephane Crouzat, said: "By standing in silence here on Armistice Day, I would like to express my gratitude in the name of France to all the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives during the darkest hours of our history.

"Let us reflect on the words of Marechal Foch, which are inscribed on the French monument at Glasnevin.

"'Some of the flower of Irish chivalry rests in the cemeteries that have been reserved in France, and the French people will always have these reminders of the debt that France owes to Irish valour. We shall always see that the graves of these heroes from across the sea are lovingly tended, and we shall try to ensure that the generations that come after us shall never forget the heroic dead of Ireland'."

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