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Unionist squabble over Easter Rising centenary plans

By Rebecca Black

Published 05/01/2016

Aftermath of the Easter Rising
Aftermath of the Easter Rising

A row has erupted in a Northern Ireland council after Ulster Unionist members proposed setting up a committee to look at how to mark the 1916 Easter Rising.

At a meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council, unionists voted down a Sinn Fein move for a working group involving councillors and representatives from local groups to establish a commemorative programme and fund to host a number of events across the borough.

The DUP proposed an amendment that the council simply note the fact that 2016 was the centenary of the rebellion.

However, the proposal that was eventually passed at the meeting of council last Tuesday came from the UUP.

It suggested setting up a committee comprising councillors allocated by party strength to consider a proportionate Easter Rising programme.

A budget will be agreed by the council after the first meeting of the committee.

Earlier in the meeting members had approved a £50,000 budget for events to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, which also occurs this year.

Events are set to run throughout the 140-day period of the bloody First World War battle from July 1 until the end of November.

Among the projects planned - which will not conflict with any previously organised events - are the production of a poppy-themed artwork, production of a book listing the names of the fallen from the borough, and the installation of a commemorative stone at the trench in Campbell Memorial Garden, Mossley Mill.

Ulster Unionist councillor Mark Cosgrove said his party regarded the DUP's dismissal of Easter Rising events as a "wasted opportunity".

He explained the UUP had proposed its Easter Rising committee as a goodwill gesture to the nationalist community, but he emphasised that the treatment of the two anniversaries will be "appropriately proportionate".

"We have only agreed to form a committee and see what we can agree on," he pointed out, adding that there will not be Irish tricolours erected across the borough or parades of masked men.

"The council allocated £50,000 towards the Somme commemoration which was voted through unanimously, including Sinn Fein councillors," he said.

"Sinn Fein put forward a 1916 proposal which I felt was unacceptable.

"The DUP voted against our proposal accusing us of funding Easter Rising events, but no budget has been allocated, and the membership of the committee will be allocated using d'Hondt, and therefore will have a unionist majority and just one Sinn Fein councillor.

"The DUP has accused the UUP of helping to fund Easter Rising commemorations, but all we have done is set up a committee to look at it.

"Any request for funding will come before the full council."

He added: "And, from the cross-community perspective, Sinn Fein is taking part in the Somme committee, and backed funding for it."

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