Lord Mayor Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir today launched the Somme Association Centenary Appeal at Belfast City Hall.
Councillor Ó Muilleoir had named the Somme Association as one his charities for his year in office, which is coming at an end next week.
The Somme Association aims to ensure that the memory of all the men and women who were part of Ireland’s contribution to the war effort are honoured in an appropriate and dignified way.
Up to 50,000 from all parts of Ireland died during the First World War with thousands more of Irish descent, serving with other countries, also lost. Very few households across the whole of Ireland were unaffected by the scale of this loss.
The appeal is planned to coincide with the centenaries of the First World War. It is aimed at providing the charity with the funds it needs to cover its costs over the next six years as it will have a leading role in planning and organising many of the events and exhibitions to commemorate the centenaries of the First World War both in Ireland, North and South, and further afield in France, Belgium and Gallipoli.
The Lord Mayor said: “I said at the beginning of my time as Lord Mayor that I would work with the Somme Association to explore ways in which I can pay respect to the dead of the First World War.
“I had also undertaken to visit the Somme during the year and we worked hard with the Association to identify potential dates but it was not possible due to diary commitments on both. However, today I have reaffirmed my intention to go there after my time as Lord Mayor as come to an end and I look forward to doing so.
“It has always been my conviction that we must redouble our efforts to fulfil the pledge of making the First World War the war to end all wars.
“I am proud to assist the Somme Association in its efforts to seek public support to ensure the Irish dead of the First World War are properly commemorated as the centenaries of their service approaches.”
Association chairman Dr Ian Adamson said: “Throughout history there have been episodes of such human suffering that they have served to strengthen a people rather than weakening them. They come to have a deeply-rooted, energising, symbolic power. So it is with the huge losses of the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) Divisions at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
“As we enter the centenary period of commemoration of Ireland in War and Revolution, our Somme Association is most honoured that the Lord Mayor has honoured us by making us one of his charities and launching our fund-raising Appeal today.
“Time constraints have not allowed us to reciprocate by bringing him to the Somme Battlefields, as he had wished, during his extremely busy and highly successful tenure of office. But we are delighted that he will be able to accompany us there in the near future.”
Members of the public wanting to support the Appeal can do so by making a donation to:
The Somme Association Centenary Appeal,
The Somme Association
233 Bangor Road,
Appeal leaflets are available at the Somme Museum and can be obtained by ringing the museum at 028 91823202.
- The Somme Association is based at the Somme Museum in Conlig. It was formed in 1990 with the aim of co-ordinating research into Ireland’s part in the First World War thereby providing a basis for the two traditions in Northern Ireland to come together to learn of their common heritage.
- The Museum opened in 1994, as the Somme Heritage Centre, funded by donations from the public as well as European and local grants. In November 2001, the museum received full accreditation and became the Somme Museum. The Museum is a unique visitor attraction of international significance showing the awful reality of the First World War and its effects on the community at home. Full details of the opening hours, and contact details can be found on www.sommeassociation.com.
- Today it plays a significant role in educating the public and commemorating, on a cross community basis, the role played by Irishmen in the First World War.
- Each year, on the 1st July, the Somme Association has responsibility for organising and co-ordinating several of the key commemoration services on the Somme. These are attended by senior UK and Irish Government representatives, as well as public representatives from France, Germany and Belgium, with the charity’s focus being at the Ulster Memorial Tower in Thiepval. It is expected that these commemoration