Foster: I will not commemorate a violent attack on United Kingdom

Posted By: January 09, 2016

Soon-to-be first minister rules out going to any Easter Rising events

John Manley.Irish News. Friday, January 8, 2016

 SINN Féin has said that it is disappointed the first minister-in-waiting has indicated she will not attend any events to commemorate this year’s centenary of the Easter Rising.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, who is expected to replace Peter Robinson as first minister on Monday, said she did not want to be associated with what she described as a “violent attack on the United Kingdom”.

Recent remarks by Ms Foster had raised hopes the new DUP leader would attend at least one event to mark the 1916 military uprising, which ultimately led to the creation of the Republic – and Northern Ireland.

 In her new year message last week, she spoke of the Battle of the Somme, of which the 100th anniversary also takes place this year, and how it would be remembered as an event of “unimaginable loss of life but also the heroic efforts of Ulstermen”.

 “We will reflect too on the centenary of the Easter Rising and the role events in Dublin in 1916 had in the creation of Northern Ireland,” she said.

 However, in an interview with her local paper, the Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA has said she will not accept an invite to commemorations in Dublin or similar events elsewhere.

 “The rebellion which took place 100 years ago this Easter was to directly attack the state to which I owe my allegiance. I don’t think I’d be invited but even if I was invited I certainly would not be going to commemorate a violent attack on the United Kingdom,” the DUP leader told The Impartial Reporter.

 Ms Foster said she did not think it would be “expected” of the first minister to attend a commemorative event, adding: “I don’t think they are going to ask any members of the royal family for example to attend the so-called commemorations”.

 The DUP leader said the Easter Rising had “led in many ways to the later formation of the Republic of Ireland”.

 “You have to remember that the rebellion led to the loss of hundreds of lives, Irish people being killed, I would say needlessly, at that time,” she said.

 “I can understand why those of a republican disposition would want to commemorate the event, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be associated with it.”

 But Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard said this year’s commemorations of the Easter Rising and Somme should be “inclusive and respectful”.

 “Both of these events are landmarks in our history and Sinn Féin has made it clear that both anniversaries should be marked inclusively and respectfully – doing so would demonstrate a genuine political maturity,” the South Down MLA said.

 “Therefore it is disappointing that Arlene Foster has said she does not want to be associated with any events commemorating the Rising.”

Mr Hazzard said the Easter Rising commemorations would be “dignified and respectful” and provide an opportunity for people with differing political views to “engage in positive and constructive dialogue”.