Unionists have given guarded support to a Sinn Fein motion calling for a working group to be set up to compile a commemorative programme of events marking the decade 1913 to 1923.
In a Motion to council on Thursday night, Sinn Fein’s Ruairi McHugh moved that the Council “mark the decade of 100th anniversary from 1913-1923 in a fitting and dignified manner, by giving recognition to the diverse narratives of the period, including the 1916 Easter Rising, the Battle of the Somme and other significant events. By putting in place a working group that will compile a commemorative programme and explore the establishment of physical memorials, reporting to the Business and Culture Committee by October 2015.”
Proposing the motion, which received unanimous support from the council chamber, Mr McHugh dwelt largely on the significance of the events of the Easter Rising.
Offering a cautious welcome to the motion, the DUP’s Hilary McClintock said the DUP recognised the significance of the many diverse events that would occur during the decade of 2013 to 2023.
“Many of these events will be of particular importance to one section of the community rather than others,” she said.
“We believe that as civic leaders we must show real leadership by adopting a mature attitude in dealing with these events. An attitude which not only promotes tolerance but also respects the diversity that exists within this council district even though we have seen little of this evidenced today.
“Today has shown naked sectarianism within this chamber,” she said.
“Massive numbers from this city have connections to the Battle of the Somme and will welcome the opportunity to mark the 100th anniversary.
“Similarly we recognise that the Easter Rising will be of significance to some, albeit lesser numbers from the council district would have been directly involved.
“Crucial to the success of this project will be the establishment of a balanced working group with the necessary experience included.
“The diverse narrative and very sensitive issues that will be addressed need a special approach to gain the confidence of all sections of the community.
“To ensure that the public buy in to this commemorative programme, we believe that it is necessary to establish an alternative approach to creating a working group, with equal representation from both sides of the religious divide.
“The working group will also need expertise of a local historian and to this end we suggest that someone like Richard Doherty would be acceptable to all sections of the community. The working group will need to consider many events within the 10 year period of this motion and will have to ensure that the whole process is equality proofed. The DUP will tentatively support the motion before us today if assurance is forthcoming that this will be a fully inclusive process respecting equally all traditions.”
Among those to support Mrs McClintock’s comments was the UUP’s Derek Hussey, who stressed the importance of The Somme.