A prominent Sinn Fein figure has said he does not understand why anyone would object to a symbol commemorating the Easter Rising being left at a UK war monument.
Niall O’Donnghaile, former lord mayor of Belfast, was speaking after an Easter lily of the kind used to mark the 1916 rebellion was placed at the base of a giant captured German gun in Ward Park, Bangor, Co Down.
Whilst the move was condemned by a unionist councillor for the town, as well as by some on the website Twitter, Belfast councillor Mr O’Donnghaile said he believed it to be a “modest” and “appropriate” gesture.
The gun had been taken by British forces from the deck of a World War One-era U-boat.
An inscription on the gun reads: “This gun taken from German submarine U19 was allotted to Bangor (County Down) by the Admiralty in recognition of the valorous conduct of Commander the Hon Edward Barry Stewart Bingham of HMS Nestor at the Battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916, for which he received the Victoria Cross”.
As well as an Easter lily, a note had been placed at the gun reading: “In loving memory of Roger Casement”.
Shortly before the Easter Rising, republican rebel Casement was said to have been transported to Banna Strand in the west of Ireland by the U19 submarine from which the gun was taken.
The picture of the lily tribute was then posted on Sinn Fein’s Twitter account, and then “retweeted” by Mr O’Donnghaile.
There is a name on the accompanying note, but only the first portion – Ruairi – is clearly readable.
Central Bangor DUP councillor Wesley Irvine said: “We’d see it as stirring up tensions in the town ... I’d certainly think it’s definitely inappropriate.”
He added this feeling is likely to be widely shared across the Ards and North Down area (where Sinn Fein has no councillors at all).
One web user dubbed it “disgraceful”, while another asked rhetorically whether Sinn Fein had driven all the way from the Falls Road to leave the tribute.
Mr O’Donnghaile said: “I think it’s entirely appropriate. I think it’s very modest ... it’s quite a quiet and personal way for someone to remember.”
He added: “I don’t know why it would particularly upset anyone to be honest ... I wouldn’t have thought that would’ve been the intention behind it.”