Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin chairman Declan Kearney hits back at archbishop's centenary comments

Declan Kearney said Archbishop Eamon Martin made a 'misdirected political intervention' by criticising nationalist and republican politicians. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

THE head of the Catholic Church in Ireland's criticism of nationalist and republican politicians' failure to engage with events to mark the Northern Ireland centenary has been described as a "misdirected political intervention" by Sinn Féin chairman Declan Kearney.

Archbishop Eamon Martin last week told The Irish Catholic newspaper that he saw 2021 as an "opportunity for greater mutual understanding" and that he was disappointed nationalist and republican political leaders had "dismissed" the centenary.

The Catholic leader also acknowledged that partition had caused "a great amount of sadness: a sense of separation, a sense of loss".

But Mr Kearney said it was "wrongheaded" not to concede that there was much about the past 100 years which is "deeply regretted", including, he said, the "failure of institutional Church leaders to vigorously oppose the violent repression and other injustices of the state".

The Stormont junior minister said it was possible the primate had "genuinely missed the public comments from Sinn Féin on this issue".

"There is nothing to celebrate about the violent partition of Ireland by an English government," he said.

"Institutionalised sectarianism, discrimination and state repression became the lived experience for successive generations of northern republicans, nationalists, Catholics, and others."

The South Antrim MLA said unionists have a "separate narrative" that reflects as different experience.

"That is why they choose to celebrate the foundation of the northern state," he said.

"That is their political choice – but that doesn't make it right."

Mr Kearney said 2021 must "not be about rancour or deepening the divisions".

"Instead of celebrating partition, this year should herald an inclusive conversation about the continued transformation of society towards reconciliation and Irish unity," he said.

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