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Taoiseach's surprise I didn't go to 1916 events is baffling, says Foster

By Staff Reporter

Published 01/04/2016

Arlene Foster has said she believes that those who wrote the 1916 Easter Proclamation "had no legitimacy and weren't speaking for anybody but themselves".

The First Minister declined to attend the commemorations in Dublin at the weekend, 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.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed his disappointment at her refusal to attend the official event.

"I don't know how he was disappointed or indeed surprised given that I am a very strong unionist who believes in the Union between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom," Mrs Foster told the Irish Times.

"I am not going to be involved in anything that is going to attack or denigrate that Union. I can't understand why he is disappointed. Surely he should have understood, given my strong views, that I would not be attending."

The First Minister added that she did acknowledge that everyone who was killed including British soldiers and police officers had been recognised on Easter Sunday, "and at least that was progress".

Mrs Foster did attend a Church of Ireland event in Dublin in February to mark the centenary of the Rising which included contributions from historians from across Ireland. The DUP leader said she found it "very offensive" that some of those involved in 1916 would seek to equate it with the rising of Jesus Christ.

President Michael D Higgins said on Easter Monday that the 1916 leaders were "advanced thinkers, selfless women and men, who took all the risks to ensure that the children of Ireland would, in the future, live in freedom and access their fair share of Ireland's prosperity".

Mrs Foster disagreed, saying: "I think a lot of them were egotistical who were doing it to bring glory upon themselves, they had no democratic backing. I don't see them as selfless individuals at all."

President Higgins also suggested Britain's "imperial triumphalism" should be re-examined.

"I think he needs to re-examine what he is saying because for a lot of us the legacy of 1916 has been continued violence, particularly in Northern Ireland," said Mrs Foster.

Hearing republicans comparing what happened in the Rising with the role of the IRA during the Troubles was difficult for Mrs Foster. She added: "I am concerned by the fact that 1916 is used to legitimise what happened in Northern Ireland over many years and is continuing to be used by republicans for violence. People talk about unfinished business, that is grossly offensive.

"They mean forcing those of us who believe in the Union into a united Ireland. That's not going to happen."

Mrs Foster said she was alarmed by republican organisations which "tried to claim the legacy of 1916" at the weekend, including masked men in paramilitary outfits in Coalisland in Co Tyrone and Lurgan in Co Armagh.

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