Belfast’s Sinn Fein Lord Mayor has said that he was honouring everybody, including republicans, who died in World War One during a Somme commemoration on Wednesday.
However, when asked if he would attend a war commemoration linked with the Orange Order, for example, he said it would be too “exclusive” in nature, and that Sinn Fein wants a “civilianised” approach to remembrance.
Arder Carson was speaking after he led a Sinn Fein delegation to lay a poppy-less wreath at the city’s Cenotaph at 9.30am, honouring those who were killed at the Battle of the Somme, which began 99 years earlier.
The wreath bore a message commemorating all those who were killed in the conflict, and read: “Ard Mheara Bheal Feirste / Lord Mayor of Belfast.”
The act of tribute came an hour-and-a-half before the main ceremony, and occurred before any Armed Forces and union flags were displayed at the Cenotaph.
After the seven-strong delegation departed, these were raised into place.
Joining him were former Lord Mayors Mairtín O Muilleoir and Niall O Donnghaile.
The Lord Mayor was asked whether hardline republicans would see such an act as a betrayal.
He responded: “I’m here as mayor of the city obviously, and I’m here as an Irish republican. And what I’m doing today is remembering all those people who died in the First World War.
“That includes civilians, it includes republicans, gaeilgeoirs and GAA members. There were lots of people who were involved in that battle from this city and from this island, so I’m here to remember everybody today.”
Asked if he felt the day was not far off when he as Sinn Fein Lord Mayor may attend an Orange event – particularly one marking the war – he said: “What we’re looking for as a party is a civilianised remembrance ceremony that would be inclusive.
“When its military or its Orangeism, it becomes very exclusive and is inclined to (exclude) nationalists and republicans from the city. So we’re looking for a civilianised approach to the memorial service so that it would be inclusive of everybody in the city.”