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Sinn Fein MLAs hail Orange Order's Easter Rising seminar

By David Young

Published 15/10/2016

Declan Kearney
Declan Kearney

Senior Sinn Fein figures have praised the Orange Order for holding a conference on the 1916 Easter Rising.

Declan Kearney MLA, the party's national chairman, and Sean Lynch MLA attended the Understanding 1916 - Easter Rising discussion in Enniskillen on Thursday. It was jointly organised by the local Orange Order, Church of Ireland and local Presbyterians and Methodists.

Speaking after the event, Mr Kearney said: "I congratulate the Orange Order and the Protestant section of our community in Fermanagh for organising this discussion on the Easter Rising.

"I fully agree with the comments of the Grand Master, Stuart Booker, when he emphasised that such initiatives should not be about agreeing or disagreeing on our history, but about developing greater understanding through listening and speaking.

"I said in my own contribution from the floor that it is quite valid for us as a society to agree to disagree, but that willingness to engage with each other on the basis of equality must be paramount. Engagement about our differences increases mutual understanding, and that builds national respect.

"This represents the way forward to building an inclusive, equal, agreed and shared future. I hope we can look forward to similar initiatives, as that taken by the Orange Order and Protestant churches in Fermanagh, being organised elsewhere."

In a statement, spokesman for the County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge  said: “Making History Talk emanated as a joint initiative between the Church of Ireland diocese of Clogher, Enniskillen Methodists and Presbyterians, along with County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge.

"Through such dialogue and partnership it was decided to hold a series of public events to promote greater understanding and better relationships in the wider community.

"In this notable decade of centenaries, topics of discussion have previously included the Ulster Covenant, the outbreak of the First World War, incorporating the Battle of the Somme, as well as the Easter Rising.

"Our latest public event was well attended throughout the community, and we were delighted to welcome Senator Michael McDowell, Alex Kane and Dr Brian Feeney to take part in the panel discussion.

"We look forward to continuing the wider debate on other historical landmarks over the course of the next few years, including the end of the Great War and the creation of Northern Ireland."

However, not everyone was impressed with the endorsement of the Orange Order's work from the highest levels of Sinn Fein.

Historian and commentator Ruth Dudley Edwards said: "Sinn Fein are becoming a bit more chummy lately.

"Their present mode is to be respectful as they come under pressure from the dissidents, who call them Quislings."

The Dublin-born historian, who just recently published a new book on the Easter Rising, added: "They are trying to appear to be reasonable - it's a tendency that has been evident for some time."

She also pointed out that when Presbyterians organised a Somme commemoration event, veteran Sinn Fein figure Mitchel McLaughlin attended.

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