1916 Rising leaders were ‘egotists’, Arlene Foster says
North’s First Minister claims rebels ‘were doing it to bring glory on themselves’
DUP First Minister Arlene Foster: She also rejected President Michael D Higgins’s call for a review of militarist imperialism. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Many of the 1916 Rising leaders were egotists “who were doing it to bring glory on themselves”, the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster has said in a sharp disagreement with the sentiments expressed by President Michael D Higgins on Easter Monday.
Mr Higgins described the leaders as “advanced thinkers, selfless women and men, who took all the risks to ensure that the children of Ireland would, in the future, live in freedom and access their fair share of Ireland’s prosperity”.
But Ms Foster, the leader of the DUP, said in an interview: “I think a lot of them were egotistical [and] were doing it to bring glory upon themselves.
“They had no democratic backing. I don’t see them as selfless individuals at all.”
She also rejected the President’s call for a review of militarist imperialism.
Mr Higgins, who was speaking at a symposium at the Mansion House in Dublin, said “while the long shadow cast by what has been called the Troubles in Northern Ireland has led to a scrutiny of the Irish republican tradition of physical violence, a similar review of supremacist and militarist imperialism remains to be fully achieved”.
Ms Foster said: “I think he needs to re-examine what he is saying because, for a lot of us, the legacy of 1916 has been continued violence”.
She said the people who wrote the 1916 Easter Proclamation had no legitimacy and “weren’t speaking for anybody but themselves”.
She declined to attend the commemorations in Dublin because she said she viewed the Rising as “a violent act that killed many hundreds of Irish people.”
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Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his disappointment earlier this year at her decision not to attend the official commemorations.
“I am not going to be involved in anything that is going to attack or denigrate that union. I can’t understand why he is disappointed,” Ms Foster said.
However, she said she acknowledged that everyone who was killed in 1916, including British soldiers and police officers, were recognised on Easter Sunday, “and at least that was progress”.