Martin McGuinness says commemorations are 'unifying force'
DEPUTY First Minister Martin McGuinness has said this year's commemorations and subsequent centenaries should be a unifying force rather than one of division.
The Sinn Féin MLA makes his remarks in an platform piece in The Irish News on Friday.
New First Minister Arlene Foster recently said she did not plan to attend any of this year's Easter Rising commemorations. She described the 1916 rebellion against British rule as "a violent attack on the state".
Her comments were greeted with disappointment by nationalists. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called on Mrs Foster to reconsider, while Taoiseach Enda Kenny pointed out that nationalist leaders in the north had attended commemorations and events in recent years which were traditionally the preserve of the unionist community.
In his platform, Mr McGuinness says the centenaries provide an opportunity to "explore, understand and celebrate – rather than fear – our differences".
"I will have no difficulty in recognising and commemorating the massive humanitarian loss across the island of Ireland as a result of the First World War," the deputy first minister writes.
"Is unionism prepared to acknowledge the importance of the Easter Rising in the nationalist psyche?"
He also challenges the British government to acknowledge the "disastrous impact of their actions during those years, particularly the partition of our country".
"None of us should fear these conversations and no one should fear to speak about Easter week when Easter week was about cherishing all the children of the nation equally," he says.