Easter Rising 1916: DUP criticise plan for Belfast parade
A row has broken out over plans to hold a parade in Belfast next year to mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
The march will be held on Easter Sunday, 2016 - 100 years on from the revolt by rebel forces against British rule in Ireland.
It is one of a series of events planned to commemorate the event. Other parades will be held in Dublin, Cork and Galway.
The march forms part of an alternative programme of events organised by Sinn Fein separate to the official plans drawn up by the Irish government.
However, it has brought criticism from unionists, who said it would glorify the deaths of soldiers and innocent civilians killed in the rising.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson accused Sinn Fein of double standards.
"Sinn Fein vigorously opposed the homecoming parade for the Royal Irish Regiment when they were returning to Northern Ireland after serving in Afghanistan," he said.
"And yet here we have Sinn Fein proposing a parade to mark the Easter Rising, when over 100 British soldiers were murdered in Dublin.
"I think it again calls into question the double standards that Sinn Fein operate."
The Easter Rising was a landmark event in the republican struggle for Irish independence.
Rebels mounted an armed insurrection in Dublin during Easter week 1916 in a failed bid to establish an independent Irish Republic.
The rising resulted in 450 deaths and the rebels' defeat. Most of the leaders were executed in the days that followed.
However, the rising is credited as a turning point in the quest for Irish independence. Speaking at yesterday's launch, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "The Easter Rising is one of the great watershed moments in Irish history."
Mr McGuinness said the programme of events sought to be inclusive and would embrace and reflect all aspects of 1916.
"It is a first class programme of events which seeks to be inclusive and embrace and reflect all aspects of 1916 and its cultural, political, social and historical relevance to Ireland in 2016," said Mr McGuinness at the launch event in Clifton House in the north of the city.
"So our focus is on commemorating and celebrating the courage and vision of those who planned, led and participated in the Easter Rising almost 100 years ago."
Noting the colours of the Irish Tricolour, Mr McGuinness said: "The orange part of the flag is as important as the green and I think we are very proud to be part of that generation of Irish republicans that is prepared to appreciate that, is prepared to accept that as we face into difficult challenges."
Five other major commemorations are planned across Belfast.
In north Belfast an event will focus on Winifred Carney, a Bangor-born woman who was present during the occupation of the General Post Office. Other events are being planned to remember leading rebellion figures with northern links, including James Connolly, Sean McDermott and Charlie Monahan.
Belfast City Council will also hold a civic dinner, yesterday's launch heard.
Historian Tom Hartley, a former Sinn Fein Mayor of Belfast, said the rising was a "seminal moment" in Irish history.
Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said the events of 1916 went beyond republicanism.
"The centenary of the Rising is of great importance to republicans but the events of 1916 are relevant today to all traditions and sections of society on this island and beyond," she said.
North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said: "The Easter Rising of 1916 set a revolutionary bushfire which was to engulf what was then a huge British Empire."
He added: "I think it's a fire still burning bright in the hearts of every single Irish republican."
Events marking the Easter Rising include:
Irish Citizen Army parade from Liberty Hall to St Stephen’s Green Garrison in Dublin.
Nationwide Easter commemoration parades including Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Galway.
SUNDAY, APRIL 24
The biggest mobilisation of 2016 will see activists gather for an event entitled reclaim the vision of 1916’.
Dawn vigils outside Kilmainham Gaol on the anniversaries of the Easter Rising leaders’ executions.
THURSDAY, MAY 12
Series of events marking the life of James Connolly and the unveiling of a piece of public art.
SUNDAY, MAY 15
Arbour Hill oration and ceremony, marking 50 days from Easter Sunday, in honour of the executed leaders.