Terence Marne O’Neill was the fourth Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and in office at the time of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in 1966. His father was Captain Arthur O’Neill of Shane’s Castle, Randalstown, the first member of parliament to be killed in action during the First World War.
O’Neill had stated that ‘he and the majority of Ulster people, as loyal and British subjects, commemorated 1916 not for the Easter Rising but because of the part played by many Ulstermen in the fight against the Germans at the Battle of the Somme.’
His government had supported the 1966 pilgrimage by providing £10,892 (approx. £209,000 in 2021) of public funds to enable a commemoration at the Ulster Tower and for veterans to return to France.
As the Leader of the Pilgrimage, he sent a message to all participants saying-
‘It is fitting that as representatives of the people of Ulster we should make this solemn Pilgrimage in proud memory of those who did not return from the Battle. The story of their devotion to duty will live forever in our annals.’