‘We’ll honour the fallen with sadness and pride in 2016’

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Traditionally the end of year is a time for looking back over the 12 months just passed as well as looking forward to the year ahead.

This is no different although 2016 promises to be a date filled with historically important commemorative events.

The centenary of the Battle of the Somme will be filled with poignancy and emotion, not just because the 1st July 1916 was one of the most significant days in the First World War but because almost five thousand young men from the 36th Ulster Division fell on that day alone.

The total number of British casualties on that day was estimated to be around 60,000 and with Ulster comprising less than one thirtieth of the population it might have been expected that the North (as it then was) would have suffered a loss of less than two thousand men so the casualty rate per head of the population was almost three times greater than that suffered by the rest of the Nation.

Such was the scale of loss that scarcely a village or town was left unscathed as the grim news returned of much of a generation wiped out in the cause of defending freedom.

The famous words of Capt. William Spender on the day after the terrible onslaught have never been forgotten; “I am not an Ulsterman but yesterday, the 1st. July, as I followed their amazing attack, I felt that I would rather be an Ulsterman than anything else in the world.” The dignity and solemnity of that day will be encapsulated within the events held to commemorate 1st July 1916.

Irish Republicans will be organising events to remember the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. While this is obviously quite a different type of event it is to be hoped that those involved in those commemorations will not endeavour to rewrite history as some have tried to do with more recent occasions marking violent events. Any type of historically inaccurate or undignified commemorative events are totally inappropriate and could be totally counter productive as this community tries to build a better future.

Looking ahead to the Assembly Elections and beyond it needs to become abundantly clear that people want to see progress. It is more than just a mantra that we must build for the future while not letting people re - write the past. For us in the DUP that will be our constant watchword. Whatever the determination of the republican revisionists they will find in us a greater determination, however long Irish Republican think they can sustain their ‘campaign’ they will find in us opponents who will sustain our fight for longer, they may well take time to realise the futility of their fight but they will learn, however long it may take them.

In short 2016 has the promise to be much better than 2015, it is up to us all to realise the potential of the year ahead.