Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Willie Frazer's fury at Martin McGuinness' Somme invite

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 19/05/2016

Campaigner Willie Frazer
Campaigner Willie Frazer
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Victims campaigner Willie Frazer has threatened to stage a protest at the Somme if Martin McGuinness attends a centenary event.

Mr Frazer said it was entirely inappropriate for the Deputy First Minister to be present at the commemoration in France on July 1.

The invite has sparked controversy, with some military veterans threatening to boycott the service if Mr McGuinness shows up.

Mr Frazer said: "For him to be standing there is probably one of the biggest insults you could get to the men who are lying there."

He said it would be akin to a Nazi SS guard attending a Holocaust memorial event.

The Belfast Telegraph reported earlier this week that Mr McGuinness is on the guest list for a service at the Ulster Tower in France on July 1.

It is one of a series of events taking place to mark the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.

Men of the 36th (Ulster) Division were among the 100,000 Allied soldiers who went over the top to fight the Germans on July 1, 1916.

The Northern Ireland service takes place at the Tower, which stands as a memorial to members of the Ulster battalions who fought at the Somme.

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister are on the guest list for the event. While Arlene Foster has indicated she will attend, Mr McGuinness has yet to respond.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "Any invitations to events to commemorate the Battle of the Somme will be considered."

Mr Frazer said he is considering travelling to France to stage a protest if Mr McGuinness attends.

He added: "I never thought I would ever consider holding a protest at an event to commemorate the Somme, but I do believe that a lot of people would be turning in their graves.

"It would be like sending someone from the SS to a holocaust service.

"I've gone to San Francisco to protest at the naming of a street after Gerry Adams a number of years ago.

"I've also gone to the middle of the Sinn Fein ard fheis to protest.

"It's something I wouldn't like to do, but I would rather do it so that at least people would see that somebody cares about the men who died.

"Personally I feel the sacrifice is too great to allow it to be tarnished by the likes of Martin McGuinness attending."

Earlier this week Phil Hamilton, a member of Rathcoole Friends of the Somme Association who is due to attend the service in France, said he would pull out if Mr McGuinness attends.

"I personally won't be going if Martin McGuinness is there," he said on Monday.

"I have spoken to a lot of ex-soldiers and they are of the same view."

The Northern Ireland service has been organised by the Somme Association, and it is understood it issued the invitation to Mr McGuinness.

A number of high-profile ceremonies will take place in the UK and France to mark the centenary of the start of battle.

In France the main ceremony takes place at Thiepval, where the memorial stands to more than 72,000 men who died and have no known grave.

Senior Royals and politicians will join a crowd of 10,000 in paying tribute to the dead.

Around 3,000 people are expected at the Ulster Tower for the Northern Ireland ceremony.

Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph