Sinn Féin slammed for failure to support WWI commemoration

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Sinn Féin have been criticised in Londonderry for failing to support a planned lights out ceremony to mark the outbreak of World War One.

In a dramatic event spanning the entire United Kingdom, lights will be switched off to mark one hundred years since Britain became involved in the First World War.

The lights out ceremony on August invokes the words of Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary who said, in August 100 years ago: “The lights are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

Communities across the UK are asked to mark the event, while local authorities - such as Derry City Council - are asked to turn out as many local and civic buildings under their control as possible.

DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney this week welcomed the fact that Derry City Council would be taking part in the event. He did, however, hit out at Sinn Féin for their refusal to express support.

He said: “I think it is vitally important that we mark the declaration of war by Britain in this poignant and significant way. As we all know, there were so many people from Ireland - both North and South - who fought in the First World War.

“The lights out ceremony was discussed at a recent full council meeting. I am pleased to say that we, in the DUP, voted to support the lights out ceremony here in Londonderry.

“There are so many people from Londonderry who fought in the War and it is correct and appropriate that they should be remembered in this way. The SDLP also voted in favour of the proposals, something that I very much welcome.

“I have to say I was extremely disappointed when Sinn Féin decided to abstain from the vote.

“That would have been a small, small gesture that they could have taken to remember that time in history. I am extremely disappointed they could not even take that small step. Let’s be very clear, when Martin McGuinness is meeting with Her Majesty the Queen, when he is talking about reaching out to the unionist community, this sends out the message that Sinn Féin can’t even make this small gesture.

“It is disappointing in this time when we are trying to move on. People from Northern Ireland - many of them from Londonderry - paid the supreme sacrifice.

“I do appreciate the work being carried out by the Republic of Ireland government in recent times. Many of these men and even their families were castigated in the nationalist community. It is only in recent years that has begun to change and I think it would have been very helpful had Sinn Féin been able to lend their support to such a vital and appropriate commemorative project.”

When the lights are switched out between 10pm and 11pm on August 4, people are encouraged to light a single candle in remembrance of the more than one million Commonwealth service personnel who lost their lives in the First World War.

Westminster Abbey will be leading the nation with a First World War vigil liturgy.