After years of wrangling, unionists have said a monument to the partition of Ireland will be placed at the Stormont Assembly buildings later this summer, despite it being condemned by nationalists as a testament to a century of bloody division and conflict.
A proposal for the stone sparked a row in the Assembly in 2021 – the year of the centenary of partition - when nationalists strongly opposed the proposal.
However, after the Sinn Féin representative on the Assembly Commission was withdrawn, it was passed earlier this year.
The monument was ridiculed this week as appearing as a gravestone for a policy which appears to be on its death bed.
Under a British military threat of continued war in 1921, the gerrymandered division of Ireland took place to create a perpetual unionist majority behind the current border. Last month, local elections confirmed for the first time that the gerrymander has failed, and nationalist voters are in a clear majority in both parts of Ireland.
In a joint statement on Monday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, UUP leader Doug Beattie and TUV Leader Jim Allister, said they had commissioned the stone and welcomed its completion.
“The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission which approved a proposal to erect the stone in the grounds of Stormont, will meet later this month to decide precisely where it will be sited,” they said.
“It is both right and fitting that such an historic milestone in the life of Northern Ireland is marked at Stormont. We look forward to a public unveiling of the centenary stone later this summer.”
The Assembly Commission is a body which manages Stormont’s property, staff and services, and passed the proposal in February after Sinn Féin’s representative John O’Dowd was appointed to a ministerial post. He was unable to be replaced by a party colleague due to the effective collapse of the institutions.
At a second attempt, the request for the stone was given the go-ahead after the rival nationalist SDLP failed to oppose it. Sinn Féin officials said this week that the SDLP “need to own this.. they could have stopped it”.
A Sinn Féin spokesperson said it is “bizarre that the three unionist parties are focused on a stone” amid the latest crisis in the power-sharing government.
“Sinn Féin opposed a stone to celebrate partition when this was previously raised at the Assembly Commission.
“Sinn Féin currently has no vote on the Assembly Commission.
“It’s bizarre that three unionist parties focused on a stone while the Assembly is being blocked from doing business on the real issues which are affecting the lives of all our people, such as restoring the Executive, passing vital legislation such as Dáithí’s Law, tackling health waiting lists and supporting workers and families through a cost-of-living crisis.”