Time for uncomfortable conversations on WW1, says Sinn Fein man

Soldiers in World War One trenches.  Photo: PA/PA Wire
Soldiers in World War One trenches. Photo: PA/PA Wire

A former general secretary of Sinn Fein has called for talks with unionists to agree an inclusive approach to centenary commemorations.

South Antrim MLA Mitchel McLaughlin said there could be no justifiable reason to deny the courage or sacrifice of those who fought in the First World War. But he warned that the fight for Irish independence should also be remembered.

Centenaries such as the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 and the Easter Rising earlier that year are looming.

Mr McLaughlin told the Derry Journal: “Is it not time for an ‘uncomfortable conversation’ on WW1 commemorations in Ireland and why they are hugely important for so many?”

Lagan Valley DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson chairs a committee which organises events in Northern Ireland marking the 1914-18 war.

It believes the key themes for the commemoration should be remembrance and reconciliation.

Mr Donaldson said: “The events of the First World War are of a scale and international significance that they are of a magnitude that really sets them in a different context to the events of Easter 1916.

“However, unionists recognise that the Easter Rising is significant to nationalists and republicans but it is important that just as unionists have sought to be sensitive in our approach to things like the Ulster Covenant that nationalists and republicans do likewise in respect of the events of 1916.”

He added that he was happy to meet with Sinn Fein to discuss plans for the First World War centenary but felt most people would wish to avoid creating some kind of equivalence between the Easter Rising and the loss of millions of people during the world conflict.

“I think that unionists would certainly not wish to participate in something that was seen as anti-British or potentially offensive to unionists and I think it would be interesting to hear what the plans are.”