Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Commemorative events 'could be hijacked'

Attempts will be made to use forthcoming commemorative events to damage the political process, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have warned.

And there will be those who will hope to foment trouble on the streets, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister said.

But Mr McGuinness told the Stormont scrutiny committee which monitors their department: "It is our job to prevent that."

The almost decade-long sequence of centenaries includes commemoration of the Ulster Covenant next year, a century since the Easter Rising in 2016, leading up to the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland in 2021.

Mr McGuinness told the MLAs: "We have to deal with commemorations, which are important irrespective of people's political allegiances, in a way that ensures that there is no disruption of the incredible political and peaceful transformation that has taken place in recent times.

"There are people who will try to capitalise on situations around commemorations in order to exacerbate the situation on the streets. It is our job to prevent that, and all the parties are anxious to ensure that nothing happens during those important commemorations that in any way endangers the recent changes."

He said discussions to ensure the commemorations pass off "peacefully and with dignity and respect" are on-going.

Mr Robinson said: "We will have one centenary after another over the next decade, and it is vital that in commemorating them we do not undermine the very real progress that we are making in Northern Ireland.

"There is a great opportunity for us to gain a better understanding of each other's positions by looking at the context of history. Perhaps by looking at history from a distance we will come to understand how we arrived at our positions. The centenaries can be positive if we learn to respect and have greater tolerance for the views of others."

Other commemorations will include the Home Rule crisis, the rise of women's suffrage and the rise of labour movements.

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