Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council to set up Somme centenary working group

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Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is to create a working group to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

At a meeting on October 26, DUP Councillor Philip Brett brought forward a motion that eight councillors and council officers should work in conjunction with the borough’s Royal British Legion branches and Somme Associations, forming a working group to commemorate the event in a “dignified and inclusive manner.”

Addressing councillors at the meeting, Cllr Brett stated: “We the DUP are keen to ensure council marks that in an appropriate and inclusive manner. July 1 1916 will be forever etched in the books of history.”

Cllr Brett recalled the sacrifice of the 36th Ulster and 16th Irish Divisions and the local men and women who were involved in the campaign. He added that an eight-councillor group would allow representation from all political parties.

“Men, women and children came from all backgrounds,” he continued.

“They united together in the aspiration of freedom.”

Cllr Brett added that the budget would be set by council.

Seconding the motion, Alderman Mark Cosgrove said that the initiative was “inclusive”.

“I have been to the Somme and there is a larger and larger recognition of the significance that every section of the community and island played in this particular campaign,” he continued.

“I am sure this year will be particularly marked given the hundreds of thousands of young lives lost.

“We have one of the foremost experts in the borough in our midst in Alderman Agnew and given his research the working group could come up with something very, very fitting to ensure it’s done in a very inclusive and fitting way.

Sinn Fein Cllr Michael Goodman also voiced his support for the motion.

“In World War 1 more than 50,000 Irish men gave their lives, the ultimate sacrifice and I think Cllrs Brett and Cosgrove’s sentiments of inclusivity are very apt at this time,” he said.

Deputy Mayor John Blair welcomed the cross-party support for the motion, which passed unanimously.