Sinn Féin will not take part in NI centenary events - McDonald

Party leader says she would not wear poppy, after presidential candidate said she would

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s presidential candidate Liadh Ni Riada canvassing in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s presidential candidate Liadh Ni Riada canvassing in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Sinn Féin will not take part in any official events to mark the centenary of the establishment of Northern Ireland, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and others from the unionist tradition are planning a series of events to mark the centenary, which falls in 2021.

The DUP also proposed in its manifesto for the British general election in June 2017 that a public holiday should be declared in Northern Ireland to mark the 100th anniversary.

Ms McDonald said, however, that her party would not participate in such events, and also said she would1not wear the commemorative poppy.

Liadh Ní Ríada, Sinn Féin’s presidential election candidate, has said she would wear the poppy if elected but Ms McDonald said she would not do so, even if she was in government.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin would not participate in events which commemorated the partition of Ireland.

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“No, we don’t celebrate the establishment of the Northern state or partition,” she said. “On that particular issue, for that punctuation point in that decade, I think we need to be very thoughtful all of us, particularly in the North, in terms of what we say and how we comport ourselves for that particular occasion.

“Obviously, for unionists, that was the moment where they secured their ‘wee statelet’; and for Irish nationalism it is the moment when people woke up one morning and said: ‘What happened there?’”

She said that care would be needed in the next phase of the decade of centenaries.

‘Narrowness’

DUP leader Arlene Foster was accused of “narrowness” over her refusal to attend any of the Easter Rising commemorations in the Republic two years ago.

At the time, both Sinn Féin and the SDLP criticised her decision, with Sinn Féin’s MP for South Down Chris Hazzard saying it was “disappointing”.

“The Easter Rising commemorations will not only mark the anniversary in a dignified and respectful manner, but will also provide an opportunity to engage in positive and constructive dialogue with a wide range of opinion from across the political spectrum,” he said.

Ms McDonald said that “in terms of the Border and the establishment of the Northern state, I think for us as Republicans it is a pause point to actually reflect back on the establishment of the state itself and the experience thereafter”.

She also said she would not wear the poppy, traditionally seen as an emblem of remembrance for British war dead. Recent years have seen political figures such as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wear a shamrock poppy to remember Irish soldiers who died in the first World War.

“But I think Liadh has started a very interesting conversation. I don’t think there is any expectation on me to wear the poppy, no more than there would be an expectation on Arlene Foster to wear an Easter lily. I wouldn’t be making that ask of her or the British prime minister to come in with an Easter lily in their lapel.”

She said the position of president allowed for “big moves, big gestures”, while saying the poppy was a “very, very difficult symbol, not just for Sinn Féin people but for Irish nationalism generally”.