Sinn Fein’s First Minister Martin McGuinness has said the next stage of the north’s peace process must be the “reconciliation phase” and again condemned the new IRA, who he said wanted to “destroy the peace process”.
Rival 1916 Commemorative parades have been planned for Coalisland, an important rallying point for rebels in the Easter Rising.
Minister McGuinness said armed actions by republican militants were “acts of futility” which would not damage the power-sharing Six County administration
“The only way forward, and the people of Ireland have declared for this with the different agreements that we’ve made, is a peaceful way forward. The tiny number of people out there who are committed to violence, their strategy is really about trying to divide Sinn Fein from our unionist government.
“They want to bring down the government, they want to destroy the peace process, they want to plunge us back to the past and there is no support in the community for that.
“The best antidote for the activities of these people is for us to stick together and for the community to support the police services both north and south.”
Striking a similar tone at Queen’s University in Belfast where he delivered a public lecture entitled ‘Reimaging Reconciliation for the Future’, Mr McGuinness said the next stage of the north’s peace process must be the “reconciliation phase”.
He said the 1916 commemorations presented Irish society with a unique opportunity to reflect on and interpret the events that shaped the island.
He said the “multiplicity of narratives” emerging from the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme presented an opportunity to develop a shared culture of commemoration across the island.
“As republicans we must make a huge effort to engage people from the unionist community in 1916 commemorative events - these events must be open and inclusive,” he said.
“Our words of reconciliation must be matched by our presence at key commemorative events that are important to the unionist community.”
Unionists, however, have continued to reject invitations to attend the 1916 commemorations, the latest being Alliance Party leader david Ford. He said he was “uncomfortable” about the 26 County state “marking the efforts of those who engaged in violence” and said the new IRA would claim to be the “inheritors” of 1916.
The “Unfinished Revolution - Unfinished Business” march in Coalisland this Easter Sunday, organised by former prisoners and independent republicans, is potentially the most militant in Ireland this Easter.
A letter issued in the name of republican prisoners at Maghaberry, Hydebank and Portlaoise endorsed the commemoration.
They pointed out they would not be able to attend it or any other this Easter. “We will be forced to honor those men and women of 1916 and all those who continued the Revolution they started that day in our own small way behind bars due to our incarceration at the hands of the British and Free State powers that be.
“We will remember their sacrifice with pride and be thankful that they took the brave decision to mount the Easter Rebellion and in doing so laid the foundation which enshrined the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, the right to be sovereign and indefeasible and the fundamental right to assert in arms the right to National Freedom and Sovereignty.”