Somme centenary set to be marked

Royal Irish Rifiles rational party during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
Royal Irish Rifiles rational party during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council is to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in 2016.

The decision was made at a meeting of Council last Tuesday night, when DUP councillor Trevor Clarke’s motion was carried.

His motion called for Council to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in 2016, and assist in the facilitation, co-ordination and support of associated community-led events. He called for a working group to be set up to discuss possible events and initiatives.

The motion said: “It is imperative this Council remembers respectfully the sacrifice paid by so many from this Borough at the Somme and throughout the Great War, and that this Council strives for a peaceful and prosperous future for all.”

Speaking on the motion, the DUP man highlighted the effect the war had on local people.

“Locally, the total number of Coleraine volunteers who served in different armed forces during the Great War numbered 1,534. Of those 1,534 who served, 171 were either killed in action, died from their wounds, or were listed as missing. 328 of Coleraine’s volunteers were from Killowen, amongst whom there were 41 casualties, including 14 Roman Catholics.

“Of the 48 houses in one particular street, Dunlop Street, some 44 homes sent men to serve in the Great War. Some homes suffered more than one fatality.”

He went on: “In my view, we have a duty not only to remember, but to pass on to younger and future generations the lessons of the Somme and the Great War. It is hugely important the centenary commemorations provide a legacy of which our forefathers would be proud,” said cllr Clarke.

Sinn Fein councillor Philip McGuigan proposed an amendment to the motion, that the remit of the working group be extended to include other events in the decade of centenaries. This was supported by the SDLP. On being put to a vote, the amendment was lost and the motion carried. 
Speaking after the meeting, cllr Clarke said: “The DUP didn’t support the amendment, as the motion was brought to deal only with the Somme centenary. The motion spells out in clear terms the need for inclusivity in how it is commemorated. If Sinn Fein and other nationalists want to arrange council support for historical events of importance to them, they should bring forward clear proposals to that effect. Sinn Fein’s efforts to try and undermine an attempt to support the local community in commemorating the centenary of an event which touched all sides of the divide here was inappropriate and unnecessary.”