Head of the Civil Service attends Messines Centenary

The Centenary of the World War 1 Battle of Messines Ridge fought on 7 June 1917 was commemorated at a shared event at the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Flanders on 7 June 2017. In attendance were the Duke of Cambridge, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and Princess Astrid of Belgium.  The Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Sir Malcolm McKibbin, laid a wreath during the ceremony, as did leaders of the four main churches in Ireland.

The battle is of particular resonance because soldiers from across Ireland fought together to take back the village of Wijtschate, which is close to Messine. This engagement involved both the 36th (Ulster) Division and the 16th (Irish) Divisions, both of which sustained massive casualties during the battle.

The Flemish Government used the occasion to make a gift of soil from Flanders Fields in order to take forward a project on the island of Ireland, to be agreed with authorities north and south.  A new piece of music, the Messines Suite, part-funded by the Executive, was also performed at the ceremony.

Pictured above: HOCS Sir Malcolm McKibbin lays a wreath at the Peace Tower with Geert Bourgeois, Minister President of Flanders

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