Centenary events should unite - Stormont
Centenary events should unite - Stormont

Unionists should attend republican events -- and nationalists turn out to mark unionist anniversaries -- in a bid to prevent historical centenaries such as the 1916 Easter Rising fuelling public unrest, Sinn Féin has said.

The indications came amid concern within Stormont that the commemorations would ‘reopen old wounds’. The Assembly voted this week in support of a motion by the Alliance Party that the official commemorations be as “inclusive” as possible.

An almost decade-long sequence of centenaries leads up to the centenary of the partition of Ireland in 2021. Other commemorations will include the rise of labour movements, the War of Indepedence, women’s suffrage, and the emergence of militant unionism.

The motion said the British and Irish governments, along with Stormont, local councils and other state agencies should “set the tone” for how events are organised.

Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin said his party would participate in unionist events.

Mr McLaughlin said he had been “tremendously affected” by the visit of the ‘Queen of England’ to the 26 Counties last year. His comments reflected similar remarks by Sinn Féin’s Deputy First Minister last month.

The Derry man said his party would participate in events, including those reflecting the unionist tradition. “We have a bit of unlearning to do,” he said.

DUP First Minister Peter Robinson said, rather than the encouragement of a single identity, there should be more “respect” for “traditions”.

“What is required is that people have an understanding and respect for people’s background and traditions,” he said.


Sinn Féin members on Belfast City Council also recently backed plans to celebrate the English queen’s Diamond Jubilee to mark 60 years of her reign.

The celebrations are due to take place in June and have been discussed by the Historic Centenaries Working Group, which is also organising the centenary events.

In a statement, Sinn Féin said that they were not in a position to discuss these matters as there are a number of important issues to be resolved as “talks are at a sensitive stage”

The working group has also examined issues around the flying of the Union Jack flag on council buildings. The discussions could see the flag finally removed from the City Hall and other council properties.

As part of the debate, Denise Wheatley, an expert in equality policy, claimed that it was “acceptable and appropriate” for the Council to fly the flag at City Hall -- but put forward four potential options, including the flying of the Union Jack on named days of the year.

Sinn Féin’s Jim McVeigh confirmed that two reports, one on flags and one on other symbols in Belfast, were being discussed.

“We received the reports and they are currently under discussion. Due to the sensitivities involved, I do not want to elaborate on the detail.”


Elsewhere, a monument in Crossmaglen remains at the centre of a funding row, with unionists opposing its refurbishment.

The monument carries a dedication to “those who have suffered for the love of Irish freedom”.

Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy has it is a symbol of the village and a focal point for visitors and tourists. The MP said the memorial was not an “IRA monument” and had been proposed in the 1940s before it was finally erected in 1979.

The discussions on funding, which are still ongoing, took place as the City Council of Firenze (Florence) in Italy voted to name a street after Bobby Sands, who died on hunger strike in 1981 fighting for political status. In a vote, 33 city councillors out of 34 voted in favour of the street naming and there was just one abstention.

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© 2012 Irish Republican News