There has been a cool response from unionists to a suggestion that Prince Charles could attend a ceremony honouring the 1916 Easter Rising.
The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson said he wanted to wait and see what form such a commemoration would take, whilst the UUP’s Tom Elliott said such a visit would be “inappropriate” – because he regards the 1916 rising as the work of terrorists.
It follows on from a historic Anglo-Irish banquet last week, at which the Queen indicated that her family intends to “stand beside” those commemorating the anniversaries of events leading to the Free State’s creation.
And at the weekend a Sunday newspaper quoted a source close to the Dublin government as saying that “intelligent speculation” was focused on the Prince of Wales being in attendance in 2016.
When contacted, neither the Republic’s Department of Foreign Affairs nor Buckingham Palace would offer any official comment on the matter yesterday.
When the idea was put to him last night, Mr Donaldson said: “It’s important this matter is handled sensibly.”
He said any official tribute should also recognise British soldiers who died during the rising.
Meanwhile, Mr Elliott said he would “urge caution from the Royal Family and UK establishment” over attending any such event.
Lagan Valley MP Mr Donaldson, a former UDR soldier, said: “The British Government has already indicated that a member of the Royal Family will take part in the centenary (in) 2016. We’re not aware at this stage of any of the detail.
“Obviously, there are very real sensitivities around this anniversary because there were British soldiers who were killed during the Easter Rising and it is important that they are remembered in all of this.”
While not ruling out the idea that he or someone else from the DUP could attend such a commemoration, Mr Donaldson added that the whole matter is, at present, purely hypothetical.
MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Mr Elliott, who is also an ex-UDR man, said: “We must not forget that these people murdered a lot of UK citizens, a lot of UK security forces, as well as a lot of their own fellow Irish citizens, so I certainly would urge caution at this time.
“I don’t believe it would be appropriate at this stage for him [Prince Charles] to do that... I think it could be seen as an acceptance and acknowledgement that terrorism is ok.”
Asked if he regarded the whole of the 1916 Rising as terrorist activity, he said: “Yes.”
It was put to him that the nationalist response would be that there was a popular mandate for throwing off UK rule.
He responded: “I’m just wondering, why had they to go about it in the manner of terrorism? My understanding is there wasn’t a huge amount of negotiations at that time.”
Their remarks came after the Sunday Independent in the Republic reported a source close to both the Tanaiste and Taoiseach as saying that Prince Charles is the main Royal in the frame for attending the 2016 events.