SF blocks map of NI at Stormont because it is ‘not inclusive’

Sinn Fein has acknowledged vetoing a proposed monument to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary, on the basis that it was only designed and suggested by unionists.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 12:00 am
Image of the proposed statue, and the wording which it was to bear, against the backdrop of Stomront Estate

The republican party complained that nobody with a non-unionist perspective had been involved in drawing up the plan for the stone sculpture – which was to consist entirely of a map of the Province with the words: Erected to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland 1921–2021.

It would have stood somewhere in Stormont’s grounds.

Sinn Fein said this “reflects only one political perspective”.

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The idea had been drawn up jointly by the DUP, UUP and TUV, and they outlined it in a letter to Alex Maskey, the chairman of the Assembly Commission, which is responsible for things like staffing and grounds at Stormont.

Their letter on January 4 said: “To us, the upcoming centenary of Northern Ireland is of immense significance.

“Whereas we accept that for others it means little and does not evoke enthusiasm, for those we collectively represent it is very important.

“Accordingly, there is an expectation within the pro-Union community that the centenary will be marked within the seat of government in a tangible, meaningful way.”

Upon learning that the commission has rejected the idea, party leaders Arlene Foster, Steve Aiken and Jim Allister said the proposed monument had been “modest” and “non-controversial” – and would have been financed wholly by their parties, sparing taxpayers any expense.

The rejection of the plan is “shameful” they said, adding: “Those we represent are left to ponder that if this is how we are treated in our own land, just how much more oppressive would our treatment be if we were ever so foolish as to consent to the ‘New Ireland’ that these same deniers of respect seek to promote.”

Sinn Fein, meanwhile, issued the following statement: “It would have been more appropriate if the leaders of the unionist parties who proposed this centenary stone had first discussed this proposal with the other parties and the other people they share this building with.

“Unfortunately, the proposed stone has been designed and commissioned by representatives of one tradition and reflects only one political perspective.

“In that sense the centenary stone proposal is symbolic of the past failures of political unionism and of this state.

“Those past failures are certainly not a template for the future and for this reason Sinn Fein does not agree to the proposed centenary stone.”

The Assembly Commission consists of one rep each from the five main parties, plus a chairman – and currently that is Alex Maskey.

In a statement the commission said: “In mid-February 2021, all five parties on the Commission agreed a programme of events for 2021 and that the proposal for a centenary stone would be considered further.

“However, the Commission was subsequently unable to reach the required consensus on this proposal and it was therefore not agreed.”

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