Sinn Fein’s intervention over Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s attempt to celebrate the centenary of Northern Ireland in 2021 is as predictable as it is unwelcome.
Northern Ireland was created as a separate legal entity on May 3, 1921. It will become 100-years-old on May 3, 2021 and no-one should be surprised that unionists are planning to mark the occasion.
Unionist-dominated Mid and East Antrim Council will surely not be the last council proposing to celebrate. There is nothing inflammatory or aggressive in such a proposal but when Sinn Fein issued a statement yesterday afternoon in the name of senior MLA Conor Murphy, it felt like the beginning of an unnecessary war of words that could last the best part of the next two-and-a-half years.
No-one is expecting Sinn Fein to celebrate. Unionists aren’t naive enough to think we will see republicans waving Union Flags or Northern Ireland banners in May 2021. They know perfectly well Sinn Fein is an Irish republican party with aspirations of an united Ireland.
But when Mr Murphy alleges that the creation of Northern Ireland heralded “an era of repression, gerrymandering, sectarianism, state violence, pogroms, domination and discrimination” he is conveniently overlooking the bloody republican violence that not only preceded 1921, but also the innocent lives taken by the IRA and other republican terrorists during the 30-plus years of the Troubles.
Sinn Fein has become expert at rewriting history on this island and we can expect much more of the same between now and May 2021. Unfortunately, all such rhetoric will do is prolong unnecessary tensions.
As the DUP’s leader on Mid and East Antrim Council Alderman Gregg McKeen says, Northern Ireland has achieved much in the fields of sport, industry, tourism and entertainment over the last almost 100 years. Those achievements deserve to be celebrated.