16th Irish Division to be commemorated at ceremony in France
MEN from the 16th Irish Division of the British army killed in a First World War battle 100 years ago are to be commemorated at a special ceremony in northern France today.
The Republic's heritage minister Heather Humphreys, Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire and DUP MLA Alastair Ross are among those who will attend the ceremony at Guillemont, organised by the Somme Association.
More than 1,200 men from the division were killed in two days of fighting at Guillemont on September 3 1916 and in nearby Ginchy on September 9 during the Battle of the Somme.
Ms Humphreys said the 16th Division included men from all over Ireland.
"In the battles of Guillemont and Ginchy, the 16th suffered 4,330 casualties, of whom 1,200 were killed," she said.
"Given that the 16th Irish included men from every province, these deaths would have impacted on communities the length and breadth of Ireland."
She said despite the high number of casualties, the men's stories have often been overlooked.
"It has been incredibly important to me, during this centenary year that we reflect on a complete view of Irish history," she said.
"The 16th Irish Division entered the Battle of the Somme, fighting for the British army, little over four months after the Easter Rising had unfolded at home. In 2016, this complex historical narrative is being fully explored."
Mr Brokenshire said he was honoured to attend the commemoration.
"It is a privilege to attend commemorations of this nature, as we remember the incredible heroism of all those from the 16th Irish Division who sustained agonising casualties in successfully capturing Guillemont and Ginchy in September 1916," he said.
He added: "The contribution and sacrifice of the men who fought in the battle was immense, and we should never forget it."