Belfast Telegraph

We must all honour our right to remember

Many people will applaud the decision of Prime Minister David Cameron to have a special commemoration of the beginning of World War I.

It was a conflict of bloody slaughter which left no part of these islands untouched by the deaths of the finest young men.

Quite rightly Mr Cameron said he wanted a truly national remembrance which captured the spirit in every corner of the country. Except that it is not every corner of the UK which will share in his dream. Just over £5m has been earmarked for an educational programme for schools, which includes funding trips to the battlefields. But it is only for English schools. What about the rest of the UK, whose children are also the descendants of those who fought, and in many cases died, on those battlefields? The question now is who will pay for those children.

Northern Ireland's new Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has vowed local children will not miss out. She has pledged to work with the Executive to ensure that schools who want to participate in battlefield visits can do so. In the absence of funding from Mr Cameron's pot that is the next best thing and hopefully local politicians will speedily agree to fund the educational programme.

While nationalists in all parts of Ireland for decades were almost in denial of their community's valourous role in World War I, recent governments in the Republic have attempted to redress the balance and now openly acknowledge the sacrifice made by so many of its citizens a century ago, at just the same time when the fight for Irish independence from Britain began.

On this side of the border nationalist politicians have grudgingly acknowledged the dead of World War I with even Sinn Fein laying a wreath in Belfast to the dead from the Battle of the Somme.

World War I had a huge impact on the history of this island, north and south, and it is right that future generations should learn about it. Trips to the battlefields are still very emotive occasions, even after a century, and those who want to go, from whatever tradition, should be given that opportunity.


From Belfast Telegraph