Naomi Long MP said: “We are approaching a decade of important centenaries from the signing of the Ulster Covenant in 2012, rise of the Labour movement, emergence of women’s suffrage movement, the Battle of the Somme, the Easter Rising in 2016 and the partition of Ireland in 2021. This was a period of considerable turmoil which shaped Northern Ireland and the divisions which were evident during that period remain the basis of the divisions in our society today. The manner in which we mark those events, which remain emotive, is hugely important. Handled well, it has the potential to aid understanding through education and progress a shared future; handled poorly, it has the potential to be a highly charged and fractious period, deepening antagonism and division.
“Given the huge improvements in east-west relations, marked most visibly by the Queen’s recent visit to Ireland hosted by former President Mary McAleese, there is an opportunity to build on this good will through practical cooperation on this issue. By working together the British and Irish Governments, along with the NI Assembly, can set the tone for how all of the events will be marked and ensure that events are organised on an inclusive basis, looking to the wider history and context of the time in these islands and across Europe, rather than have a series of potentially divisive, exclusive and triumphalist celebrations of each individual centenary.
“Some of these events will be marked, not only in Northern Ireland, but also in the South and in the UK, so coordination of approach is crucial in order that we capture not only the opportunity to build on good relations but also to capitalise on the potential heritage and cultural tourism potential of the period. It would also send a very positive message and mark real progress if a mature agreed way forward on such sensitive issues can be agreed.”