Arlene Foster: We will mark Easter Rising and its role in North

Martin McGuinness: Rising and Somme must be commemorated ‘respectfully’

Arlene Foster said she hopes the first years of Northern Ireland’s second century can be  better than people had dared to hope for. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Arlene Foster said she hopes the first years of Northern Ireland’s second century can be better than people had dared to hope for. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire


Gerry Moriarty

Northern Editor

The North will hold commemorative events for the Easter Rising and the impact it has had on the creation of Northern Ireland in 1921, the DUP leader Arlene Foster said in her new year message.

Ms Foster, who on January 11th takes over the post of First Minister from Peter Robinson, referred to how in the five-year term of the next Assembly a number of centenaries will be marked including the 1916 Rising, the Battle of the Somme and in 1921 the creation of Northern Ireland.

People would reflect on the “centenary of the Easter Rising and the role events in Dublin in 1916 had in the creation of Northern Ireland”.

“By the end of the next Assembly term, Northern Ireland will celebrate its centenary year. By pulling together I believe we can make the first years of our second century even better than people had dared to hope for.”

Ms Foster, whose father the IRA tried to kill, and who was caught up in an IRA bomb attack on a school bus, said her “generation felt the Troubles very acutely”.

‘Making Northern Ireland great again’

The Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness after attending the launch of the year of commemoration of the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin Castle referred to how this year is also the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

“Both of these events are landmarks in our history and marking these anniversaries respectfully and inclusively would display a real sense of political maturity,” he said.

This centenary year is an opportunity to build on the vision of the Proclamation to cherish the children of the nation equally, including those who have fled wars and famine to find sanctuary here in Ireland,” he said.

“The recent agreement offers a fresh start for the political institutions in the North and we must build on that to ensure they deliver for everyone in the community,” said Mr McGuinness.

The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that “every tradition on the island must work to ensure that 2016 is a vibrant mix of celebration and commemoration”.

‘Complex history’

“Ours is a complex history and we should be sensitive to those complexities. Too often the temptation remains to reach for simple certainties. History rarely provides such certainties. Politicians should avoid promoting triumphalist simplicities. I won’t be doing it nor will my party,” he said.

“What is of true importance is that, whether commemorating those who marched on the GPO or those who marched on the fields of the Somme, they are all of them deserving of respectful remembrance. All of them,” he added.

Mr Eastwood said that in relation to 2016 “unionism’s voice has every right to be heard”. “I would urge them to use that voice,” he added.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt in his new year statement said the UUP would mark the 1916 Rising by exploring its “causes and consequences, one of which was the sequence of events which led to partition and the creation of Northern Ireland”.

Mr Nesbitt said with May Assembly elections approaching that early in the new year the UUP would publish its “alternative vision for government for Northern Ireland”.

“As we enter the final days of this Assembly mandate, I know of no one who thinks this is as good as it gets. Everyone yearns for better, after eight years of Sinn Féin/DUP led government at Stormont,” he added.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said “while others celebrate the grubby rebellion of 1916” voters should “make 2016 the year of uprising at the polls against Sinn Fein and the failure they and their partners have brought to Stormont”.