Alliance leader Ford spurns invite to 1916 event over legacy of violence
Justice Minister David Ford has refused an invitation from the Irish Government to attend an event to mark the 1916 Easter Rising centenary.
Mr Ford said he was “uncomfortable” about the Republic of Ireland “marking the efforts of those who engaged in violence”.
He said dissident republican terrorists who murdered policemen and prison officers in recent years would claim to be the “inheritors” of 1916.
The Easter Rising against British rule will be commemorated in Dublin next week.
Mr Ford told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme he had written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny outlining his reasons for declining the invitation to the event.
“My problem is — the people who murdered Adrian Ismay, the people who murdered David Black, the people who murdered Ronan Kerr, the people who murdered two Garda would all claim to be the direct inheritors of Easter 1916,” said the Alliance leader.
“I cannot associate myself with that, as Minister of Justice in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Ford said he understood why the historical event was being reflected 100 years later, but said he would not attend any “celebration” of armed insurrection, or one that did not fully examine the “totality of suffering”.
The Dublin rebellion, which began on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, resulted in the deaths of 485 people, just over half civilians.
The Rising was crushed within a week by British troops.
Despite its failure, it was seen as a significant step towards independence and the establishment of a republic.
But Mr Ford said there were other means of achieving independence.
The Home Rule movement was backed by most Irish nationalists before the British began to execute leaders of the Easter Rising.
“There is a real difficulty if the State is putting a very significant part of its effort into marking the efforts of those who engaged in violence, when there was a democratic way available,” said Mr Ford.
He said he agreed with Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin, who described the Easter Rising as “profoundly wrong” and lacking in “any democratic or constitutional legitimacy”. The minister said that he plans to attend other events which mark the centenary of the Rising in a more reflective way.