Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Will Sinn Fein chief Martin McGuinness attend the Great War service?

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness

Mystery over whether Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will take part in an event to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War deepened last night.

First Minister Peter Robinson, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, the Duke of York and Irish Government Minister Heather Humphreys will be among those taking part in a service at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on Monday evening as the UK and Ireland unite in Remembrance.

Senior figures from the main churches in Northern Ireland will be present along with representatives of other faith communities.

However, last night neither the Office for the First and Deputy First Minister nor Sinn Fein would comment on whether or not Mr McGuinness will take part.

During the service young people will light five candles during the service, each representing a year of the war.

The Duke of York will read a lesson and will light a commemorative candle.

This will be placed beside one of the eight volumes of books kept in the cathedral which record the names of all those from across the island of Ireland who fought and died during the 1914-18 conflict.

Organiser DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the centenary should not become divisive.

"The global events that took place during 1914-1918 involved people from across the island and the political divide and had a profound effect on the history of Ireland in the 20th century," he said.

"We owe it to those who sacrificed their lives with such valour to ensure that the centenary is used to promote better understanding between our various traditions on this island."

Last year then-Belfast Lord Mayor, Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilloeir made history when he attended an Armistice Day event at City Hall.

Previously Sinn Fein representatives have laid laurel wreaths at the City Hall cenotaph but not taken part in Remembrance Services.

Ms Villiers be among those taking part in a candle-lit vigil in the grounds of Belfast City Hall from 10pm-11pm to coincide with similar events taking place across the UK.

Lights at the City Hall will be switched off as part of 'Lights Out', a UK-wide moment of reflection to mark 100 years since the start of the First World War.

Ms Villiers said: "One hundred years on from the start of the First World War and the huge scale of the conflict and the enormous loss of life is no less shocking today.

"It is very important that we remember the sacrifice made by men and women from across these islands who gave so much for our freedom.

"Events over the coming days will also raise awareness of the UK and Ireland's shared history and improve our understanding of the causes and consequences of war," the Secretary of State added.

How Northern Ireland plans to mark wartime centenary 

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