NI history is worthy of celebrating: Donaldson

Unionists are proud of what has been achieved during the first 100 years of Northern Ireland’s existence, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 30th May 2022, 7:37 am

Speaking at the NI Centennial commemorations on Saturday, the DUP leader also said he would like to see the Stormont Executive restored – once Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom has been restored.

Sir Jeffrey told the PA news agency that the lack of a functioning Executive, which his party has prevented from forming, did not mean Northern Ireland could not be celebrated.

“We have lots to celebrate in Northern Ireland. We have come through adversity in the past and we faced it down. And we’re looking to build for the future,” he said.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland welcome tens of thousands of people to Belfast for its Northern Ireland CentenNIal Parade. (Photo by Graham Baalham-Curry)

“Of course we want to see Stormont restored, but that means restoring Northern Ireland’s place fully in the United Kingdom.

“Everyone is welcome here and if people feel they can’t be here, that of course is a matter for them.

“But we are here to celebrate 100 years of Northern Ireland. We are proud of what has been achieved in that century and we’re looking ahead to the future.”

Speaking to the News Letter, he said it was important “to remind ourselves and others, we’re here to stay, we want to build a strong future for everyone in Northern Ireland as we look ahead to the next century”.

Also on the day of the parade, Sir Jeffrey tweeted: “Look forward to today’s events to celebrate our centenary. To all taking part – walk with pride in this place, for all that we’ve achieved together & with hope for the future.

“They told us Northern Ireland would never see this day. We defied them then & we will defy them again for the next 100.”

At one point Sir Jeffrey was spotted observing the parade along with former DUP leader Arlene Foster, while a number of other unionist politicians mingled with the crowds.

Party colleague Ian Paisley was in Stormont too for the occasion, as well as Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley and Lagan Valley MLA Emma Little-Pengelly.

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said it was important to “separate” the celebration of Northern Ireland’s history with the political deadlock at Stormont.

He said: “We have to separate that slightly from the political ebbs and flows of this place.

“We have had many ebbs and flows as far as Stormont is concerned, and the devolved settlement, and we need to separate one from the other.”

Mr Beattie said he ralised that some people will not want to celebrate the history of Northern Ireland.

He said he understood “people who want a united Ireland” who wouldn’t want to celebrate the 100th but hoped they would “see how respectfully this is going to be done”.