Former Sinn Féin chairman Mitchel McLaughlin says the large numbers of soldiers, police and civilians who were killed during the Easter Rising must be remembered alongside the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic next week and on April 24.
The outgoing Speaker of the Assembly made the comments as he hosted a commemorative lecture at Stormont.
“Naturally, we all view history through the lens of our individual backgrounds and influences.
“So tonight we mark an event which personally means a lot to me and others because of the ideals of those who fought and died for the cause of Irish independence and the values behind the Proclamation,” said Mr McLaughlin.
“However, I equally acknowledge the need to remember the larger numbers of British Army personnel, police and civilians who were also killed that week.
“One of the issues facing our society is that many of us only know part of our history. The events of 1916 particularly symbolise that with a division in our community over whether 1916 should be remembered mainly for the Battle of the Somme or the Easter Rising.
“Maybe there might be value for us all in thinking about how someone like me only gains an awareness in my sixties of the role of Irish nationalists the First World War? I have no doubt that this is mirrored by a similar lack of awareness within parts of unionism of the detail of the events around Easter 1916,” said Mr McLaughlin.
The senior republican, in his capacity as Assembly Speaker, was hosting a lecture by Dr Johnston McMaster of the Irish School of Ecumenics.
He said: “I don’t pretend that looking back on history in a respectful, inclusive and non-confrontational way is necessarily easy to achieve. However, attempting to understand it in hindsight and listening to the perspectives of others can only benefit our society today.”