Northern Ireland news

Orange Order services and parades mark Somme centenary

A Somme memorial service in Dromore, Co. Down yesterday

Thousands of Orangemen took part in church parades across the north yesterday to mark the upcoming centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Memorial services took place simultaneously at various locations including Armagh, Omagh, Limavady and Dromore, Co Down.

The events come ahead of the centenary itself on July 1, when the Orange Institution will reflect on the bravery of those who died on the Western Front.

Many of the 5,500 casualties of the 36th Ulster Division on the first day of the battle were Orangemen.

The 16th Irish Division, drawn mainly from the other three Irish provinces, also had more than 4,000 casualties in September, of whom 1,200 were killed.

The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, said the memorial services and associated parades would be a "fitting and solemn tribute" to the fallen.

"The Battle of the Somme will forever be seared into the psyche of the Orange family, given the huge sacrifice by members of the institution on the front line," he said.

"Indeed, many brethren attending the memorial services will have relatives who answered the call of duty a century ago, and fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today. Their courage must always be remembered, and we are honoured to do so as an institution by hosting such province-wide commemorations.

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Northern Ireland news