Infantry of the Royal Irish Rifles during the Battle of the Somme in World War I.Wikimedia Commons

Northern Irish deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is traveling to Belgium this Saturday on a historic official visit to commemorate the centenary of the World War I outbreak.

Joining him will be the Democratic Unionist Party’s Jeffrey Donaldson, as well as the Waterford-Omagh Peace Choir, a cross-border Irish choir formed in 2006.

Their visit was organized in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Executive office in Brussels; Ireland’s Ambassador to Belgium Eamon Mac Aodha will participate in the numerous events.

According to the Irish Times, Donaldson  and McGuinness will visit commemoration sites in Ieper (Ypres) and attend a ceremony at the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Flanders, opened in 1998 by Mary McAleese and Queen Elizabeth to commemorate Irish soldiers from all religous and political backgrounds who fought in the war.

A concert in Saint Nicholas’s Church is also scheduled for the afternoon.

Sinn Fein’s visit to Belgium is a major step as they have never acknowledged the Irish who fought in World War I in such a significant way. It comes during a huge effort to get a new peace deal in the North.

Enda Kenny and David Cameron are taking part in last ditch efforts to secure a deal.

The visit also coincides with a program of commemorative events that mark the centenary of the “Christmas Truce,” an unofficial German-British truce in 1914 in which soldiers from each side met in “no man’s land” to play soccer.

Approximately 200,000 Irish soldiers served in WWI; a round tower in Flanders’ Peace Park commemorates them all, though the park particularly commemorates the soldiers of the 16th Irish Division and the 36th Ulster Division who fought alongside each other in the 1917 Battle of Messines.

The Irish Republican movement is seen as having a complex relationship with the World War I legacy as it coincided directly with the 1916 Rising.