Sunday 28 May 2017

New Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster 'will have nothing to do with' Easter Rising centenary celebrations

Arlene Foster. Photo: PA
Arlene Foster. Photo: PA
Peter Robinson watches as Finance Minister Arlene Foster reacts after she was elected as leader of the DUP. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Rebecca Black

First Minister in waiting Arlene Foster has vowed she will not be associated with anything to do with marking the centenary of the Easter Rising.

Republicans across Ireland are preparing to celebrate the centenary of the Dublin-based rebellion against the then British administration. Although the rising was a failure, it sparked a wider effort which resulted in Ireland getting its independence a few years later.

Peter Robinson watches as Finance Minister Arlene Foster reacts after she was elected as leader of the DUP. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Peter Robinson watches as Finance Minister Arlene Foster reacts after she was elected as leader of the DUP. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Plans for commemorations in Northern Ireland have already sparked rows at a number of councils.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said he will not attend any Rising commemoration events, but his party is planning its own event to "challenge the causes and consequences of Easter 1916".

In her New Year message Mrs Foster struck a conciliatory note when she said: "We will reflect on the centenary of the Easter Rising and the role events in Dublin in 1916 had in the creation of Northern Ireland."

But in an interview this week with the Impartial Reporter, she gave her personal view when she was asked if she would attend an Easter Rising event

She said: "I certainly would not commemorate a violent attack on the United Kingdom. I can understand why those of a republican deposition would want to commemorate that event but I certainly wouldn't want to be associated with it."

"You have to remember that the rebellion led to a loss of hundreds of lives, Irish people being killed, I would say needlessly at that time," she said.

Mrs Foster explained: "The rebellion which took place 100 years ago this Easter was directly to attack the State to which I owe my allegiance. I don't think I would be invited, but even if I was invited, I certainly would not be going to commemorate a violent attack on the United Kingdom."

The new DUP leader also spoke about her "excitement" at taking over as First Minister from Peter Robinson next week.

Sinn Fein MLA Chris Hazzard voiced his disappointment at Mrs Foster's stance.

"This is an important year of commemorations as we mark the centenaries of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme," he said.

"Both of these events are landmarks in our history and Sinn Féin has made it clear that both anniversaries should be marked inclusively and respectfully. Doing so would demonstrate a genuine political maturity.

"Therefore it is disappointing that Arlene Foster has said she does not want to be associated with any events commemorating the Rising.

"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."

An Ulster Unionist spokesman said: "Mike Nesbitt has already made clear the Ulster Unionist Party will not be celebrating the Rebellion, but nor will we ignore the event that started the chain of events that led to the partition of the island and the creation of Northern Ireland.

"We will continue our practice of recent years of visiting Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin to lay wreaths at the graves of some of the British soldiers who lost their lives in 1916.

"We are also planning to hold our own event which will challenge the causes and consequences of Easter 1916. This is not something that can be ignored because the impact still reverberates today and we should accept the challenge of how to deal with its legacy."

Belfast Telegraph

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