Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and Ireland’s Arts Minister Heather Humphreys and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan last week announced a programme of events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in 2016.
The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.
More than one million people were killed, including thousands of Irish soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division.
In recognition of its significance, Ireland has developed the Battle of the Somme Commemorative Programme 2016 to commemorate the period from 1 July to its winding down in November 1916.
The Programme will comprise- four elements; Ceremonial; Historical and Education Reflection; Cultural; and Community Participation.
Among the planned highlights:
• The principal commemoration for the Battle of the Somme will take place at the Thiepval Memorial on 1 July 2016, jointly hosted by France and the UK (co-owners of the site). Ireland will be officially represented at a high level at this event.
• A State-led commemoration will take place on 9 July 2016 at the Irish National War Memorial Park, Islandbridge, in conjunction with the Royal British Legion, on the same weekend as the National Day of Commemorations.
• A military ceremony will be held at 7.20 a.m. on 1 July 2016 at the Irish National War Memorial Park, Islandbridge, honouring the Irish Regiments who fought at the Somme and WW1.
• The Somme Association will hold its major annual event in Guillemont on 3 September 2016 to marks the participation of the 16th Irish Division, which saw action during the first weeks of September. Ireland will be officially represented at this event.
• The ‘Other Voices’ project, involving the National Museum and Poetry Ireland, with Dermot Bolger as poet-in-residence (March to August 2016), will explore the stories of Irishmen at the Somme and those who were involved in the 1916 Rising.
• The National Archives of Ireland will highlight its digitised collection of wills from soldiers killed in WW1.
• A series of commemorative stamps to mark the centenary of Somme will be issued by An Post, Ireland’s postal service.
• UCD will host an event on 9 September 2016 to mark the death of Tom Kettle at Ginchy.
• The Irish Embassy in Paris is finalising plans with the relevant French authorities to present a co-production between the Abbey Theatre, Headlong, Citizens Theatre and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatre of the iconic play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme by Frank McGuinness, on the eve of the Somme commemorations in June 2016 in France, close to the scene of the battle.
• Glasnevin Cemetery will present an outdoor exhibition starting on 1st July with a focus on the 36th Ulster Division, changing in September to reflect the participation of the 16th Irish Division in September 1916.
Taoiseach, Enda Kenny said: “In commemorating the Battle of the Somme, we are remembering all those from this island who died during this terrible period in 1916. We remember the huge losses experienced by the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division and the indescribable impact that this had on the island of Ireland – a loss that has transcended generations.
“(Our) Somme Programme will commemorate this important period in our history, and all those who lost their lives, in a dignified and respectful way.”