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Embassy marks the significance of the Battle of the Somme

As part of Ireland’s 2016 Programme of commemorations, the Ambassador of Ireland Dan Mulhall hosted an event to mark the significance of the Battle of the Somme at the Embassy of Ireland London on 14th June 2016.

Ambassador Dan Mulhall, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Dr Andrew Murrison and Dr Caitriona Pennell discuss the Battle of the Somme at the Irish Embassy in London. (Photo Malcolm McNally).

Speakers at the Embassy event included Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, the DUP’s parliamentary chief whip and defence and business spokesperson in the House of Commons and Chair of the Northern Ireland Coordinating Committee for the Centenary Commemoration of WW1; Dr Andrew Murrison MP, Prime Minister Cameron’s Special Representative for the Centenary Commemoration of the First World War and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office; and Dr Catriona Pennell, historian of 19th and 20th century British and Irish history, based at the University of Exeter.

The event is part of a series of events being organised by the Embassy in London throughout 2016 to commemorate the historical events of 1916.

Ambassador Mulhall said:

“I am pleased to host this event to reflect on the Battle of the Somme and to explore its significance in shaping the history of the island of Ireland over the past 100 years. As we commemorate the events of 1916 in Ireland and in the UK, I believe events like this provide an opportunity to explore our complex, sometimes shared and sometimes contested histories, to remember the past in an inclusive manner, and to reflect on and advance further the productive journey of reconciliation on which Ireland and Britain have been embarked for decades now.”

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said:

"I am delighted to take part in this centenary event hosted by the Irish Embassy and focused on the Battle of the Somme. The Somme is part of our shared history and the fact is that both unionists and nationalists, Protestants and Catholics from all over the island of Ireland fought and died in this cataclysmic encounter. The Ambassador is to be commended for facilitating this reflective event and such discussions can only enhance our approach to remembrance and reconciliation."

Dr Andrew Murrison MP said:

"The Somme offensive was a pivotal moment in the Great War and central to the British and Irish public's perception of it. It is right that we should reflect on the losses at that time and what they mean for us today."

Dr Catriona Pennell said:

'I am delighted to be involved in tonight's event at the Irish Embassy discussing the significance of the Battle of the Somme. As a British citizen whose research career into the First World War started at Trinity College Dublin and has continued utilising archives such as the Somme Museum in Newtownards, I think it is testament to how far Irish commemorative culture has come that the Somme is now a key part of the 2016 calendar alongside other cornerstone events such as the Easter Rising.'

You can listen to the podcast here and the event is also being recorded for broadcast on BBC Parliament.

14 June 2016

Note for Editor:

  • The Battle of the Somme, from 1st July 1916 to its winding down in November, saw over 1 million casualties from both sides, including 3,500 dead from the island of Ireland. From the 5,500 casualties of the 36th Ulster Division, the almost 2,000 soldiers killed on 1st July were men drawn almost entirely from the unionist community in the province of Ulster. In September, the 16th Irish Division, drawn mainly from the other three provinces, had 4,330 casualties, of whom 1,200 were killed. Added to these numbers were the Irish soldiers who fought in other divisions. The total number of Irish casualties cannot be calculated with certainty but they affected every part of the island of Ireland. More information on Irish involvement in the Battle of the Somme is available from the Department of the Taoiseach website.
  • Link to the Battle of the Somme Commemorative Programme.
  • Link to podcasts of previous events in the Embassy Lecture Series, exploring the themes of Ireland’s 2016 commemorative programme.
  • More information on the programme of creative, community and commemorative events taking place in Britain to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising and historical events of 1916 is available on the Embassy website. Part of the ambitious Global and Diaspora Programme for Ireland 2016, the programme is being organised by the Embassy of Ireland in London, Culture Ireland and the Irish Consulate in Edinburgh.
  • Link to Ambassador’s blog on Ireland and the First World War.