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Government likely to take up Somme commemoration invitation in Northern Ireland

The Government has signalled it would likely take up an offer to participate in the Somme and Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Northern Ireland this year.

A spokesman said it would look positively to any invitation from Belfast City Council to have a representative attend its solemn armistice ceremonies in the north's capital.

"If any invitation were to be received from Belfast City Council for the Irish Government to be represented at the Somme and Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Northern Ireland, the Government would look positively at being represented," the spokesman said.

A motion from SDLP Councillor Pat McCarthy to extend an invitation was passed at a Belfast City Council meeting last night.

Mr McCarthy said times were changing, including attitudes to those who died during the First World War.

He said inviting the Irish Government to the commemorations would be a sign of goodwill and help strengthen north-south relations.

Mr McCarthy also pointed out that the Queen's historic visit to Dublin last May would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.

President Michael Higgins' first official duty as head of state saw him attend a Remembrance Sunday service in Patrick's Cathedral.

He also laid a wreath at the foot of the cathedral's war memorial in honour of those who died during both World War One and Two.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also took the opportunity to visit the war cenotaph at Belfast City Hall in November during his first official visit to Northern Ireland since taking office.

Mr Kenny joined Belfast's Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Niall O'Donnghaile to pay tribute at the monument.