President Higgins leads Irish tributes at the Somme commemoration

The Battle of the Somme began on July 1st 100 years ago

President Higgins leads Irish tributes at the Somme commemoration

Photo: Photocall Ireland

Irish President Michael D. Higgins led the Irish tributes at the centenary commemorations at the Somme earlier today. 

There are 10,000 guests attending the ceremony with upwards of 500 Irish amongst them.

President Higgins laid a wreath on behalf of the Irish people at the Thiepval Memorial in the north of France. Earlier French President Francois Hollande greeted President Higgins at the memorial.

Sergeant Gerard White of the Irish Defence Forces read a segment from the last letter sent by Lieutenant Tom Kettle of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

“We are moving up tonight into the battle of the Somme, the bombardment, destruction and bloodshed are beyond all imagination. Nor did I ever think the valour of simple men could be quite as beautiful as that of my Dublin Fusiliers. I have had two chances of leaving them: one on sick leave and one to take a staff job. I am calm and happy but desperately anxious to live”

Over one million men lost their lives in what proved to be minimal gains in German territory over the course of five months.

Closer to home, events were held at the War Memorial Gardens in Dublin and the Mall in Cork. Leo Varadkar, Minister for Social Protection, laid a wreath on behalf of the Government at Belfast City Hall.