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Loyalists invited to join in Belfast's Easter Rising centenary commemorations

Published 26/10/2015

GPO in ruins 1916: Soldiers survey the interior of the post office in Sackville Street, Dublin, during the Easter Rising of 1916. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
GPO in ruins 1916: Soldiers survey the interior of the post office in Sackville Street, Dublin, during the Easter Rising of 1916. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Scene from O'Connell Street in Dublin, during the Easter Rising in 1916
Post Office Ruined...Soldiers inspect the interior of Dublin's General Post Office, viewing the complete destruction of the building after being shelled by the British during the Easter Rising 1916. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)...I
INDH28 Easter Rising 1916: British troops loading vehicle. Published 1920. (Part of the NPA/Independent Collection)
INDH22A Easter Rising 1916: Head office of ITGWU, destroyed following the 1916 Rising. Published 1916. (Part of the NPA/Independent Collection)
Library pic dated 11/05/1916 of the damage wrought on Dublin's General Post Office during the Easter Rising.
INDH22C Easter Rising 1916: Ruins of Freeman Press and Telegraph, 1916. Published 1916. (Part of the NPA/Independent Collection)
Easter Rising:Anniversary/Standard bearers head the parade into Milltown Cemetery, Falls Road, BELFAST, for the graveside ceremony. 12/4/1966
Library filer dated 11/05/1916 of a view of Sackville Street (O'Connell St) and the River Liffey at Eden Quay in Dublin, showing the devastation wrought during the Easter Rising.
GARDEN OF REMEMBERANCE OPENS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN APRIL 1966 IN CELEBRATION OF THE 50YRS ANNIVERSARY OF THE EASTER RISING
INDH29 Easter Rising 1916: British troops searching a car. Published 1920. (Part of the NPA/Independent Collection)
INDH22 Easter Rising 1916: Coliseum theatre, Henry Street, destroyed following the 1916 Rising. Published 1916. (Part of the NPA/Independent Collection)
INDH22B Easter Rising 1916: O'Connell bridge and street, 1916. Published 1916. (Part of the NPA/Independent Collection)
INDH22E Easter Rising 1916: Troops being marched to barracks, 1916. Published 1916. (Part of the NPA/Independent Collection)
INDH26 Easter Rising 1916: Troops searching bread van for arms. Published 1916. (Part of the NPA/Independent Collection)
INDH23 Easter Rising 1916: Troops inspecting car on Mount Street Bridge. Published 1916. (Part of the NPA/Independent Collection)
INDH27 Easter Rising 1916: British troops barricade City Hall. Published 1920. (Part of the NPA/Independent Collection)
Easter Rising:Anniversary/Standard bearers head the parade into Milltown Cemetery, Falls Road, BELFAST, for the graveside ceremony. 12/4/1966

Loyalist communities across Belfast will be invited to engage in a range of events to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising, republican organisers have pledged.

All dimensions and perspectives on the insurrection against British Rule in 1916 in Dublin must be reflected in the anniversary programme, chairman of the organising committee Tom Hartley said.

The former Sinn Fein mayor acknowledged some unionists may not want to commemorate an event that effectively paved the way for Irish independence, but he said others appreciated the Rising's significance in what was such an important historical period for everyone on the island.

"What I find inside loyalist communities is there are many, many people who are already engaging in history and hopefully we can create a template where we can deal with what I call the combustible period of Irish history in a way that allows engagement and discourse," he said.

"There will be some who will engage, others who won't. But we do think it is important for us from early on in this process to say 'L ook, we want this to be a period of hospitality, of bringing people in and getting other people's views and dealing with difficult views of 1916'. We have no difficulty with that."

Next year will mark two major centenaries in Irish history.

While the 1916 Rising in Dublin is a seminal moment in republican history, the sacrifice made by Irish soldiers, both Protestant and Catholic, at the Battle of the Somme in the First World War is extremely important in the unionist narrative.

Mr Hartley was the main speaker as the programme of events to mark the Rising in Belfast was unveiled in the City Hall.

Parades, re-enactments, lectures, exhibitions, cycle tours and a commemorative walking trail are all planned for next year.

There will be a weekend of events focusing on the contribution of Winifred Carney, the Co Down-born suffragette, socialist and trade unionist who acted as secretary to one of the Rising's leaders, James Connolly.

One of Ms Carney's relatives, Desmond Cassidy, attended the launch event in City Hall.

"It's the greatest thing that has come to pass in the family that this is all happening for Winifred at the moment," he said.

"The more people that get to know about her, the more pleased the family are going to be.

"I look around the City Hall and I think to myself if Winifred was still alive and seeing what was happening here in the City Hall she would be well pleased."

The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), which traditionally represents loyalist voters, said it would be for individuals to decide whether to attend Rising events.

A party spokesman said: "As Unionists and Loyalists we don't think people will want to participate in any celebration events, however it is a matter for the individual to decide.

"The Unionist and Loyalist community will have their eyes firmly focused on remembering those who sacrificed their lives on the battlefields of France that very same year.

"On the other hand there will be those who want to gain a better understanding of the conflict and British and Irish history and that will be a personal choice for the individual."

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