Dublin politicians to be invited to Belfast City Hall cenotaph tributes
Politicians from the Republic are to be invited to take part in a war commemorations at the Cenotaph in Belfast for the first time.
A motion calling for the Irish government to join Battle of the Somme and Armistice Day ceremonies was backed by every party except Sinn Fein when it was brought before a full meeting of Belfast City Council last night.
The proposal was put forward by nationalist representative Pat McCarthy, who said he believed the "time was right" to normalise relationships between Belfast and Dublin.
"For a long time in the history of the Republic that period (First World War) was forgotten and was something which was never talked about," the veteran SDLP man told the chamber.
"But that has now changed and there are many groups which have been formed to look at the history of people from the local area who took part in the First World War.
"Indeed, it is to be welcomed as it is part of the complex relationships between all parts of Ireland.
"I think it is now time (to invite) the government in Dublin to participate at the Somme commemoration and the Remembrance Sunday ceremony here in our city."
It is understood the Republic's Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore, could be nominated to attend the annual events in July and November.
Christopher Stalford from the DUP seconded the motion and said: "People from the nationalist or Home Rule background who went and fought in France were effectively written out of history, their memory was sullied."
Since 2002 Sinn Fein has held a separate commemoration ahead of the official Somme anniversary ceremony organised by the Royal British Legion. The tradition of laying a laurel wreath at the Cenotaph two hours before the main event was started by former Lord Mayor Alex Maskey during his tenure at City Hall.
Last year current Lord Mayo, Niall O'Donnghaile claimed republicans would consider attending the main event if significant changes were made.
However, last night republican leader at City Hall Jim McVeigh (below) voiced fierce opposition, branding the motion "premature and ill thought-out".
The west Belfast man, whose great uncle Frank Alexander O'Boyle, died at the Battle of the Somme while fighting with the Royal Leinster Regiment, said: "We should remember these people, but our representatives are not interested in celebrating the fact that thousands of men were led to the slaughter in an imperialist war.
"They were brave men, yes. But, lions led by donkeys in some respects," Mr McVeigh said.