Alliance MLA: Sinn Fein behaviour over centenary ‘an appalling insult’

An Alliance Party MLA has branded the recent behaviour of Sinn Fein over the issue of Northern Ireland’s centenary “appalling” and “insulting”.

Sunday, 24th October 2021, 4:18 pm
Updated Sunday, 24th October 2021, 6:21 pm
City Hall lit up red in January 2019 in honour of Irish langauge campaigners

Kellie Armstrong made the comments in the wake of Sinn Fein coming out against the lighting up of Belfast City Hall to mark 100 years since Ireland was partitioned, bringing Northern Ireland into being.

It comes on the heels of Sinn Fein pointedly refusing to attend a commemorative, joint Catholic/Protestant church service in Armagh on Thursday for the centenary.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, Strangford MLA Ms Armstrong said: “The behaviour of Sinn Fein over recent times has been appalling.”

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She questioned why anyone would “make a fuss” about “lighting up a building to commemorate the Northern Ireland centenary”.

She asked simply: “Why wouldn’t it be lit up?

“I just don’t understand why culture is only seen to be respected in one direction.

“It had an adverse impact on unionists. I’m not a nationalist or a unionist, and I think it’s insulting.

“I think it’s time we started to understand we’re a mixed society, a shared society and in order to respect each other we have to accept the fact we’re not all exactly the same.”

Her comments come days after Michael Long, a senior Belfast Alliance councillor and the husband of party leader Naomi Long, had similarly hit out at Sinn Fein’s attitude toward the NI centenary – suggesting that republicans were being “petty” and “vindictive” about the matter.

“We’ve had dinners for the Easter Rising, for Ulster Covenant, and what we were talking about [in council on Thursday] was simply lighting up the building for one night to commemorate – not celebrate – the centenary of NI which matters to a large section of our community.”

He pointed out that City Hall “is lit up nearly every other night now” – including being illuminated in red in honour of those campaigning for those pushing for an Irish language act.

In the News Letter on Saturday, UUP leader Doug Beattie recalled other recent occasions when Sinn Fein has sought to block centenary activities.

“The decision by Sinn Fein to block the illumination of Parliament Buildings to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland... is incredibly small-minded and mean,” he said.

“Added to their refusal to allow a small memorial stone or a single centenary rose in the grounds of the Stormont estate, these cynical moves are deliberately insensitive.”

Sinn Fein told the News Letter: “There is nothing to celebrate about the partition.

“It has been a disaster for the people of this island, setting up a conservative state in the south and a discriminatory sectarian apartheid state in the north.”

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