Martin McGuinness: 1916 commemorations are about the future and the past

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Platform by Martin McGuinness MLA Deputy First Minister

2016 will be a historic one for republicans as we mark the centenary of the Easter Rising with events and commemorations the length and breadth of the island.

But none of this is simply about remembering the past. It is also about looking to the future.

For Irish republicans, the Easter Proclamation is a living document.

It is the declaration of a new Ireland, a republic founded on civil and religious liberty, social justice, equality and fairness.

It is an extraordinary document - a clarion call for equality at a time when equality for women, the disenfranchised, disadvantaged and downtrodden was unheard of.

It is a revolutionary vision far ahead of its time and the greatest tragedy is that the vision has yet to be fully realised.

Ireland remains partitioned and a real republic of equals has yet to be built.

However, republicans are as committed now as they were a century ago to achieving the noble objectives of the men and women of 1916.

We know that the most fitting tribute we can pay them is to achieve the republic for which they sacrificed so much.

It remains our goal to see the peaceful ending of partition and the building of an agreed, united Ireland – a republic based on justice and equality, not cronyism and austerity.

And as we face into two elections this year in which Sinn Féin will stand candidates in every constituency in Ireland, Irish republicanism has never been stronger.

I know there are many who don't share our vision of 1916 and of the future.

But to them I want to stress that 2016 and the decade of centenaries should be something that unites rather than divides us. These are opportunities 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. Is unionism prepared to acknowledge the importance of the Easter Rising in the nationalist psyche?

Is the British government prepared 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.

The Rising wasn't simply a rebellion against British rule. It was an insurrection against injustice, oppression and inequality. It was a social as well as a political and national revolution.

Therefore, I sincerely hope that everyone can find space over the coming year to explore and understand the vision of 1916 and its ongoing relevance - particularly in these times of Tory austerity.

Our people - regardless of religious or national identities - still demand social justice and equality today.

Working together, we can build the kind of society that delivers it.

The kind of society envisioned in 1916.

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