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Last Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006, 12:51 GMT
Order welcomes Somme stamp plans
The battle of the Somme
Two Irish regiments fought at the Battle of the Somme
The Orange Order has welcomed plans by the Irish postal service to launch a commemorative stamp to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

An Post revealed its intention to mark one of the bloodiest battles of World War I in a letter to the Order's Grand Lodge.

Both the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) Divisions fought in the battle between 1 July and 13 November 1916.

Order spokesman Dr David Hume said the move was an "entirely fitting" tribute.

By the end of the battle, the British suffered about 420,000 casualties, the French 195,000 and the Germans about 650,000.

"The Battle of the Somme is remembered with honour across Northern Ireland and in parts of the Irish Republic such as Donegal and elsewhere, which helped fill the ranks of the 36th Ulster Division," Dr Hume said.


"We all know the tragic consequences of that summer day in 1916 for individuals and families, and in the small Protestant communities of the border counties of Ulster the impact was even greater.

"It is entirely fitting that the Irish Republic should mark this anniversary, and I have no doubt this gesture will be appreciated within the unionist community."

However, the Order expressed its disappointment that Royal Mail has decided against a similar gesture in the United Kingdom.

An Order spokesman said Royal Mail had informed them it only marked anniversaries in multiples of 50, or if a Royal occasion merited a special issue.

However, he noted a special set of stamps was issued in October to mark the England cricket squad's victory over Australia in the Ashes.

"We were led to the conclusion that Royal Mail considered winning the Ashes a royal occasion," he said.

"This response from Royal Mail was rather disappointing and contrasts with the response from An Post in the Republic of Ireland."

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