DUP rejects Easter Rising spend but backs £50,000 Somme centenary
THE DUP has been accused of attempting to block council funding for Easter Rising commemorations – while supporting a £50,000 package of events for the Somme.
Antrim and Newtownabbey council has agreed to set up a working group to discuss creating an events programme for the Easter Rising centenary.
But Sinn Féín has criticised the DUP after all 15 of its councillors on the unionist-majority council voted against the proposal.
It comes despite the council setting aside £50,000 to spend on events this year to mark a century since the Battle of the Somme.
This year will be the 100th anniversary of both the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, with commemorative events being held across Ireland.
Sinn Féin councillor Anne Marie Logue accused the DUP of "absolute hypocrisy", saying the Somme proposals received cross-party backing.
"Their intention was to block any funding for any groups that wish to commemorate the events surrounding Easter 1916," she said.
"I just find it very disappointing. It is a very important year in all our histories in 2016. For it to be ignored is a missed opportunity by the DUP."
But the DUP's Nigel Kells defended the stance, saying: "You can't compare the Somme to the Easter Rising."
"I don't think the Easter Rising is something that is suitable for the council to fund," he said.
"We just didn't think this was appropriate for the residents and ratepayers."
"The Somme would be for everyone. No one community can claim it – it's not single identity like the Easter Rising could be."
Mr Kells dismissed the Easter Rising proposal as a "stunt" ahead of the assembly elections.
The DUP councillor also said he took exception to Ms Logue's description in the chamber of "celebrating" the Rising.
"There's already funding available from the Irish government and there is a good relations fund from the council for any community group," he said.
The Sinn Féin motion to set up a working group for Easter Rising events was discussed by the council last month.
An amended proposal was supported by a majority of councillors.
Ms Logue said she hoped to involve schools and community groups in marking 100 years since the republican rebellion against British rule in Ireland.
Antrim and Newtownabbey council has already set up a working group for the Somme and agreed a £50,000 budget for a series of events including an exhibition.
Thousands of soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division fought in the Battle of the Somme.
It was one of the bloodiest battles of World War One with more than one million casualties over 141 days.