Northern Ireland news

SDLP 'will hold event to mark Northern Ireland centenary'

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon was speaking on BBC's Sunday Politics programme that the party

THE SDLP is to hold its "own events" to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland's creation, deputy leader Nichola Mallon has said.

In January, leader Colum Eastwood said the party's goal is "at odds with the celebration of partition", but said then it was "wrong" to suggest it will not take part in centenary events.

The SDLP has declined to take part in the Northern Ireland Office's (NIO) centenary forum and, in September, south Belfast MP Claire Hanna said she did not think "there is much to celebrate in the decade of centenaries", expressing a hope for "common ground" in commemoration efforts.

Ms Mallon told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme that the party "want to engage on this issue and we want to do so in a way that is sensitive, that is balanced, that is respectful, so we will be engaging".

"In fact the SDLP will be organising its own events, so you won't find any difficulty there," she said.

The infrastructure minister said the event "will be reflecting with people of all different opinions on what has gone before us and what lies ahead of us".

"We will be holding respectful events, informed debate and that's what exactly the SDLP is about. We're about building a shared home place, we've been that way since our inception."

And the party has not ruled out participating in event organised by others.

"We will monitor different programmes and initiatives and where we can see it being done respectfully and sensitively then, yes, we will engage," Ms Mallon said.

"We've been very clear, we won't be celebrating the centenary, I hope people understand that. We're honest and up-front about that.

"But where we can see events and initiatives that are sensitive, that are balanced, that give space for reflection and are inclusive, then we will of course judge those and participate accordingly."

Ms Mallon explained the earlier much publicised concern was "an issue with was the approach by the NIO when it was engaging with people last year and it was making it clear at that stage that it was around celebration".

"That was never going to work here in Northern Ireland, given the difficulties that we have and the sensitivities with which we need to address different issues," she said.

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