Sinn Fein is facing criticism for ‘snubbing’ Armistice Day commemorations in NI this Sunday, marking the centenary of the end of hostilities between Germany and the Allies on the Western Front.
The ‘Armistice’, or truce, on 11 November 1918 remains the name of annual European commemorations in countries such as France and Belgium, with Canada and the US also marking the date.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will honour the memory of 49,000 Irish soldiers who died when he attends Armistice commemorations in Paris this Sunday, joining Donald Trump and Angela Merkel.
Also on Sunday, Irish Foreign minister Simon Coveney will attend events in Belfast, Irish minister Heather Humphreys in Enniskillen and Irish justice minister Charles Flanagan in London.
Irish President Michael D Higgins and Irish Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan will attend events at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
Mr Coveney said that “for far too long” remembrance of WWI Irish soldiers was “a political declaration, or a marker of community identity” but that more recently “we have seen leadership and scholarship and sensitivity and generosity”.
Sinn Fein said its NI leader Michelle O’Neill will attend a service in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin on Sunday, however it is understood the party will not take part in any events in towns or villages across NI.
Sinn Fein said it has discussed remembrance with the British Legion and has taken part in a range of Battle of the Somme and WWI events this year, held a dedicated civic reception in the Causeway Coast and Glens and has organised a remembrance event for Mid Ulster. However it added that it “will not participate in British military commemorations or events which celebrate or attempt to legitimise British imperialism”.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the “corporate decision to snub Armistice Day” was “a backward step” by Sinn Fein in light of its Irish presidential candidate saying recently that she would wear a poppy.
UUP MLA Doug Beattie MC said the centenary was “a pivotal event” in world history which saw 40 million of myriad nationalities killed, wounded or missing. “If Sinn Fein try to politicise this act of Remembrance... that is up to them” he said, but unionists and nationalists fought “side by side” in WWI in France.
TUV leader Jim Allister said Sinn Fein’s comments show that “the republican mind-set has not changed and the decision to attend some remembrance events in recent years has been a cynical political exercise by the party”.