Prince William, Irish PM mark WWI battle in Belgium

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Prince William, Irish PM mark WWI battle in Belgium
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Messines (Portugal) (AFP) - Britain's Prince William and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny led a ceremony in Belgium on Wednesday marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Messines in World War I.

The iconic June 1917 battle in northeast Belgium cost the lives of thousands of soldiers and was one of the few in which Irishmen fought against a common enemy in British uniforms.

Belgium's Princess Astrid, the sister of King Philippe, was also at the ceremony at the Island of Ireland Peace Park, a memorial opened in 1998 that has become a powerful symbol of reconciliation.

Moving letters from soldiers to their families were read out as the Duke of Cambridge, who is Queen Elizabeth II's grandson and second in line to the British throne, and other dignitaries listened.

The ceremony has particular resonance as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, a move which has sparked fears for the Northern Ireland peace process and the fate of the border between the British province and the Republic of Ireland.

The Battle of Messines was one of the turning points of the war against German forces, with Australian and New Zealand troops also heavily involved.

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