Belfast Telegraph

Royal British Legion attends civic event in Belfast to mark Easter Rising

A representative of the Royal British Legion has attended a civic dinner at Belfast City Hall to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.

The event hit the headlines earlier this month after Irish President Michael D Higgins pulled out of attending.

It was understood his reason for cancelling his planned attendance was because unionist councillors indicated they would not attend.

A spokesman for Aras an Uachtarain said the President had accepted the invitation on the basis that there was cross-party support.

"This now is no longer the case, leaving the President with no other option but to withdraw as he does not want to become embroiled in matters of political controversy," he said.

The DUP has been accused of scuppering the dinner by refusing to attend. The party said it had no objection to the event happening, but would not be there.

Belfast Lord Mayor Arder Carson expressed his disappointment, but said the event would go ahead.

The dinner took place at Belfast City Hall on Friday evening.

The Royal British Legion was represented at the dinner by Ken Martin, the chairman of the Royal British Legion in the Irish Republic.

The guests also included Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, acting Irish Foreign Affairs minister Charlie Flanagan, Lord Mayor of Dublin Criona Ni Dhalaigh and Belfast's Lord Lieutenant Fionnula Jay-O'Boyle.

An estimated 150 soldiers were among the 500 people killed when Republican rebels staged an uprising during Easter 1916 in an attempt to overthrow British rule in Ireland.

DUP leader Arlene Foster declined to attend Easter Rising commemorations in Dublin, describing the republican rebellion "as a violent act that killed many hundreds of Irish people".

"As such I don't think it was right to commemorate an attack on a State that I believe in," she said.

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