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Alex Kane

Toeing the party line... why there's no chance of meeting of minds over Northern Ireland's 100th birthday

Alex Kane


You do not expect Sinn Fein to be over the moon about the centenary, but why is Boris Johnson so lukewarm, asks Alex Kane

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First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have not seen eye to eye over plans for the centenary celebrations

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have not seen eye to eye over plans for the centenary celebrations

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Ey

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Ey

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

PA

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have not seen eye to eye over plans for the centenary celebrations

Of all the events mentioned within the Decade of Centenaries programme announced in 2012 ("the programme encompasses the different traditions on the island of Ireland and aims to enhance understanding of and respect for events of importance among the population as a whole ... to offer fresh insights and constructive dialogue and to foster deeper mutual understanding among people from the different traditions"), commemorating Northern Ireland's centenary - the shaping of the United Kingdom as we now know it - was always going to be the most difficult.

Last week, following Boris Johnson's statement that he was establishing a Centenary Forum and Centenary Historical Advisory Panel (a very-late-in-the day decision, in my opinion), Michelle O'Neill set out Sinn Fein's position: "The north was built on sectarianism, gerrymandering and an inbuilt unionist majority and that is not something I would ever celebrate. Partition failed this island ... it not only divided our island, but also our people and was devastating for our economy. Any event or forum looking at the centenary of partition must include a reflective and honest conversation on partition, its failure and how we move in to a new decade ... and we will engage in all of that. But we cannot have a one-sided bias from the British Government."

Hmmm. Not much hint there of any desire for mutual understanding. I wonder, by the way, if her reflective and honest conversation would include her personal reflections on the IRA's assorted campaigns since 1921, particularly the activities of the Provisional IRA from 1970 to the second ceasefire in July 1997.