Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Important step of Remembrance

Today's Act of Remembrance commemorates the Armistice on November 11 1918 after the long and bloody First World War and its dead, and also the fallen in the Second World War and in many conflicts since then.

In Northern Ireland this has been for many a contentious issue, with republicans distancing themselves from what they claim is a purely pro-British ceremony.

This is not so, and the presence of the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir at today's British Legion ceremony is a step in the right direction. This is especially important in a province where symbolism is so significant.

Next year will mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and it will again highlight the role of this conflict in Irish and British history, when this island was united under the Crown.

It is well documented how many thousands of service people from all over Ireland fought in this long conflagration, and the republican and nationalist lobby which airbrushed this sacrifice out of mainstream Irish history is now trying to come to terms with the realities and not the myths of the past.

Huge numbers of Irishmen, and also many women, were also involved in the Second World War, and there is no point in republicans and nationalists pretending otherwise. In recent years nationalists were somewhat more enlightened to these realities, but even within the ranks of Sinn Fein there is a developing realisation that some of their own forebears joined the armed forces to fight for freedom in Europe.

Frankly there is no excuse for pretending that this did not happen, and in acknowledging the truth about the many who died, republicans should act with dignity towards unionism on a subject so stark and tragic that it should be allowed to rise well above party politics.

Mairtin O Muilleoir has shown courage and vision so far in his role as Lord Mayor.

He attends today's Remembrance Service after spending time in Toronto in trying to promote this city and province. In doing so he is demonstrating yet again how an enlightened incumbent in the City Hall can be a Lord Mayor for all the people.

That is no mean achievement, and we will all have come of age when this kind of outreach by every Lord Mayor becomes the norm, and is no longer newsworthy.

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