Centenary commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising must be inclusive and reflect all perspectives of the event, Martin McGuinness has insisted.
Sinn Féin’s Deputy First Minister at Stormont stressed the need for a “mature and inoffensive” approach as he launched his party’s plans to mark the 100th anniversary of the insurrection against British Rule on the streets of Dublin.
Sinn Fein has already outlined a programme of events for Dublin and today it gave details of its intentions in Belfast.
Included is the unveiling of a new statue of one of the Rising’s leaders James Connolly on the Falls Road and a centenary-themed Easter Sunday march.
“It is a first-class programme of events which seeks to be inclusive and embrace and reflect all aspects of 1916 and its cultural, political, social and historical relevance to Ireland in 2016,” said Mr McGuinness at the launch event in Clifton House in the north of the city.
“So our focus is on commemorating and celebrating the courage and vision of those who planned, led and participated in the Easter Rising almost 100 years ago.”
Noting the colours of the Irish Tricolour, Mr McGuinness said: “The orange part of the flag is as important as the green and I think we are very proud to be part of that generation of Irish republicans that is prepared to appreciate that, is prepared to accept that as we face into difficult challenges.”
Referring to an on-going parading impasse at the nearby Woodvale/Ardoyne community interface, he added: “There are difficult challenges in this area in relation to parades – we all need to approach the resolution of these situations with a very genuine spirit of generosity.”
The event saw uniform clad re-enactors dramatise some of the events of 1916, including the declaration of the Irish Republic on the steps of the GPO in Dublin by Patrick Pearse.
Mr McGuinness said the leaders’ vision of a republic remained “unfinished business”.
“So the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising is a time to build – it is a time to rededicate ourselves to the achievement of the Republic declared in 1916 – so let us imagine and achieve that better future.”
He added: “This is a very exciting time to be an Irish republican. I have been an Irish republican for over 40 years and over that very lengthy period of time this is absolutely the most exciting time to be an Irish republican because of the growth of support for our party, because of the desire to use our mandate wisely for the purposes of bringing about our primary political objective, which is the unification of our country by purely peaceful and democratic means.
“I think all of this is achievable.”
DUP MP David Simpson said events to mark the Rising had no relevance in the North.
He highlighted past pledges by Sinn Féin to deliver a united Ireland by 2016.
“There is no united Ireland to celebrate however, only Sinn Féin representatives working in a devolved United Kingdom Assembly,” he added.
“In common with most other issues, their focus is looking south of the border, here on something which is of no relevance to the people of Northern Ireland.
“There also appears to be little in the programme of events aimed at building bridges across the community.
“That is hardly surprising though as it will be entirely used as an election campaign platform by Sinn Féin.”