Eastwood brands himself a republican as he hits back at church service critics
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has declared himself a republican as he batted away claims from anti-Union hardliners that he should not have attended today’s joint Catholic / Protestant church service in Armagh, marking 100 years of partition.
Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill simply tweeted “make partition history” today; she was not in attendance.
However, speaking after the service, Mr Eastwood it was “very clearly no celebration of partition”, and urged those who did not attend a church service to “look at what happened”.
“It was a reflection of the events that happened over the past 100 years and it was, I think, a hopeful vision for the future, putting young people front and centre,” he said.
Mr Eastwood said he felt partition was “coming to an end”, and urged consideration of how to build a shared island.
“If we want to create a shared island we have to be prepared to share rooms with people who disagree with us,” he said.
“I don’t criticise anyone for not coming but I think they should look very carefully at what happened today, it was a reflection, it was a marking of an historical event.
“It was a hopeful service looking to the future.”
Mr Eastwood also defended the decision by Irish President Michael D Higgins not to attend, saying he has “a different set of circumstances to weigh up”.
Asked by the News Letter what his response is to dissidents and to Sinn Fein, who declined to send anyone to the service, he replied: “Well, I’d say I’m a republican.
“I believe in a united Ireland. And I don’t think only republicans or only nationalists are going to achieve this.
“If we think we’re going to achieve a united Ireland by speaking to ourselves alone, surely we should have learned that lesson by now.
“Our future will be built by lots of different people coming together. And frankly I won’t be taking any lectures from anybody about how to build relations across this island.”
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