A number of buildings across the UK were illuminated in blue and green on Friday to mark the centenary, including Ten Downing Street, the UK Cabinet Office in London, Dundee’s V&A Museum, the Welsh government building in Cardiff as well as the British Embassy in Washington DC. The government says the colours were chosen to signify “a bright future for all in Northern Ireland”.
However, neither Belfast City Hall nor the home of NI Parliament at Stormont were illuminated after objections by nationalists. Sinn Fein also blocked the illumination of civic buildings owned by Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Council on Friday, a request made by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO). The party was able to do as the request came too late for consideration in a full council meeting before last Friday.
Speaking at the council monthly meeting this week, DUP group leader Councillor Mark Baxter labelled Sinn Fein’s decision as “petty, narrow-minded and sectarian”.
“Over the last number of years, there have been many requests to illuminate council buildings to highlight a particular cause or charity,” he added.
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“Unfortunately, when this request came, we all replied in the affirmative with the exception of Sinn Fein, who took a very petty, narrow-minded, sectarian and republican view that was essentially, we want to be inclusive as long as it does not include unionism.” Mr Baxter proposed the buildings be lit up for ten nights but accepted an amendment from UUP Alderman Jim Speers to reduce this to seven days from November 5 to 12
Alliance Party Councillor Eoin Tennyson said he thought the NIO’s request was “quite modest” and that SInn Fein were “petty, to an extent ungenerous and took quite a narrow view on this issue”. However he proposed one night of illumination would be adequate.
SDLP group leader, Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon described the events of 100 years ago as the “greatest travesty that happened this island” but said he too would be happy to see the buildings lit up for one night.
But Sinn Fein group leader Councillor Liam Mackle said that as an Irish Republican he “cannot and will not do anything that celebrates this historic calamity.”
The DUP-UUP proposal for seven nights of illumination was passed with 22 unionist votes to 13 Sinn Fein and SDLP votes, with three Alliance councillors abstaining.