Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May's Festival of Britain plan for 2022 'will stir tension in Ireland'

Theresa May
Theresa May

By David Young

A UK think-tank has called on Prime Minister Theresa May to shelve her planned Festival of Britain - because it risks stirring up tensions in Ireland.

British Future, led by former Fabian society director Sunder Katwala, fears that the planned showcase in 2022 celebrating the best of Britain has "the worst possible timing".

The festival will coincide with not only the formation of the Irish Free State, but also the start of the Irish Civil War, which erupted in the wake of partition.

In a research report on the festival, British Future suggested that it be deferred.

"The Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland should be postponed from 2022, to help shift its messaging away from Brexit, to avoid coinciding with the centenary of the partition of Ireland, and to allow a lead-time for developing an imaginative cultural programme that is delivered across the breadth of the UK," the report said.

Mr Katwala, the report's author, told The Guardian newspaper: "Holding a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2022, on the centenary of Ireland's partition and civil war, would be the worst possible timing.

"It is only likely to heighten tensions between communities - and that's before we know Brexit's implications for the border.

"Right across the UK, a festival so closely associated with Brexit may only reinforce divides when it could be bridging them."

Announcing the festival in autumn 2018, the Prime Minister said the it would strengthen "our precious Union".

The Prime Minister's plans echo the Festival of Britain in 1951, designed to promote optimism and confidence in the future after the Second World War.

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