Sinn Féin to look at holding events to honour WW1 dead
Vital to remember those Irishmen who died in conflict, says Martin McGuinness
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness: “Everybody has to be very conscious of the great importance of these anniversaries . . . We need to be very dignified and very respectful.” Photograph: Alan Betson
Sinn Fein is currently examining how best to commemorate those who died in the First World War and deserve to be remembered for the sacrifice they made, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness has revealed.
Mr McGuinness said that it was important that everyone, north and south, remembers the importance of the forthcoming anniversaries of Easter 1916 and the Battle of the Somme where thousands of Irishmen lost their lives.
“Everybody has to be very conscious of the great importance of these anniversaries during the course of the next while and everybody has to decide how to manage it - I do think the vast majority of politicians recognise the need to give a lead - we need to be very dignified and very respectful.”
“I will be attending the Irish government commemorations of Easter 1916. I am normally invited to those and i will be delighted and honoured to do so and I will also be the attending Sinn Fein commemorations which will also be very respectful and very dignified.”
Mr McGuinness said that he was also conscious personally and Sinn Fein was conscious as a party of the thousands of other Irishmen who lost their lives in Flanders fields and elsewhere during the First World War and the need to acknowledge their sacrifice.
“I am presently examining how I can play my part in remembering the sacrifice of those Irishmen, north and south, who lost their lives in the great slaughter that was the First World War including the Battle of the Somme,” he said.
“And from our perspective in Sinn Fein, we are presently examining what is the best way of remembering those people who lost their lives - I mean I am very conscious of the intricacies of Irish history and the mingling of relationships.”
Mr McGuinness instanced the case of Meath born poet, Francis Ledwidge, a fervent nationalist who joined the Irish Volunteers but at the urgings of John Redmond to fight for the freedom of small nations, enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was killed in Ypres on 31st July 1917.
“I love the poem that Seamus Heaney wrote about Ledwidge and I love the poem that Ledwidge wrote about Thomas McDonagh. In fact, Ledwidge wrote a poem about Grace Gifford who married Joseph Mary Plunkett while he was on leave in my own city of Derry in 1916.
“And like so many other Irish people who believed that their contribution to the First World War would lead to the freedom of small nations and who lost their lives fighting in France and Flanders and elsewhere, Ledwidge also paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“The politics of it were terrible but I look at the humanity and the fact that tens of thousands of our countrymen lost their lives, it’s only proper and right that as an Irish republican leader, should remember their sacrifices and I will do that, I intend to do that.”
Mr McGuinness made his comments in response to a question about Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster’s announcement that she would not be attending Easter Rising commemorations in the Republic later this year.
Ms Foster said that as a democrat it would not be right for her to take part in the commemorations. “Easter 1916 was a very violent attack on the state. And it wasn’t just an attack on the state. It was an attack against democracy at that time,” she told the BBC in an interview earlier this month.
Mr McGuinness made his comments in Bandon in West Cork where he was canvassing with Sinn Fein Cllr Rachel McCarthy who is seeking to become the first Sinn Fein TD for the area since Michael Collins held a seat there in the 1920s.