Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

The curiosities that show we have come a long way

Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness

What would the leaders of Dublin's Easter Rising back in 1916 have made of this year's celebrations?

Take the context. The Easter Lily appeal, which maintains the graves of Ireland's republican dead, was launched in the long gallery at Stormont last week.

A few days ago, a Sinn Fein minister, Michelle O'Neill, called in a Crown forces helicopter to help feed stranded sheep, starting in the Glens of Antrim.

Polls show that partition is more strongly supported than at any time in the past and that Sinn Fein will be using this weekend's commemoration to try to put the issue of a referendum back on the agenda.

Even without one of the two parts of Ireland co-operating more closely than at any point since partition, DUP ministers have good working relationships with their southern counterparts.

Jonathan Bell even addressed a Fine Gael conference and Simon Coveney, the Irish agriculture minister, attended the DUP gathering.

Both the taoiseach and the tanaiste attended Poppy Day gatherings; Martin McGuinness has shaken hands with the Queen, bidding her welcome to Belfast, and at the weekend he will be giving the oration at Dublin's garden of remembrance, where the Queen laid a wreath. He will use the occasion to call for reconciliation.

It is a different future, less cut and dried, than either republicans, or the founders of Ulster unionism, could have imagined amid the struggles of the last century.

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