Mid & East Antrim Councillors who wish to take up an invitation to attend the 2016 Somme Association’s Somme/Guillemont Tour will have to pay their own way.
When the invite was presented at their latest monthly meeting on August 1, the majority backed a proposal by Councillor John Stewart that members who wished to go would foot the estimated £620pp cost, plus VAT, themselves.
The purpose of the trip, which will run from September 1-5, is to commemorate the centenary of Guillemont and includes a full day’s outing into Belgium where visits will include the 16th (Irish) Division Memorial at Wytschaete, the Pool of Peace at Spanbroekmolen and Lone Tree Cemetery.
The itinerary also features attendance at services at the Menin Gate, the Ulster Memorial Tower and the Cross of Sacrifice to the 16th (Irish) Division at Guillemont.
Members learned that the cost per person includes flights, ferry crossings, twin room accommodation and buffet breakfast.
Cllr Beth Adger proposed, seconded by Ald. Tommy Nicholl that the Mayor and Ald. May Beattie, who represents Council on the Somme Association, attend on behalf of council, however, members went on to back Cllr Stewart’s proposal, seconded by Cllr Noel Jordan, with a vote of 16 for, nine against and six abstentions that attendance effectively be at no cost to the ratepayer.
Making his proposal, Cr Stewart said: “I don’t think it’s too much to ask”.
Councillor Declan O’Loan sought clarification that a number of members went on a visit to the Somme earlier this year.
“I am surprised that any further visit is either being invited or we are being invited or that we would be considering participation in it,” he said.
The Mayor Cr Audrey Wales confirmed that four members had visited the Somme on behalf of Council earlier this year.