McGuinness visits battlefields in Flanders

The Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness has today visited battlefields in Flanders to commemorate those who died during the First World War. With him on the visit is the South Antrim MLA, Declan Kearney and the party’s Vice President, Mary Lou McDonald.

He is due to travel to France tomorrow to visit The Somme.

Speaking about his visit he said;

I come here as a proud Irish republican to recognise the deaths of thousands of Irish men during the course of the catastrophic imperialist First World War, which claimed millions of lives.

It is important I come here as deputy First Minister in a spirit of peace and reconciliation, showing leadership and reaching out the hand of friendship to unionists.

Tens of thousands of Irish men from across the island died in the First World War and it is important to recognise that. They are part of who we are.

Recently I have discovered that many republicans, including my colleague in the Executive Office, Conor Heaney, whose great grandfather was killed at the Somme, lost relatives during the First World War.

I hope this visit is a further step towards reconciliation. It is an opportunity to remember the past in a mature way and to build a better future for everyone.

 

 

  • Que a host off “How great are we at going to the Flanders, how moving it was…how inspired it made us…..How big it is for the peace process” will will be thrown out (especially by Kearney) for weeks (and years) to come.
    Meanwhile in real life its a meaningless gesture ignored by Unionists, not cared about by vast majority of nationalists because people right across Ireland have done it in some way or form on holidays to France, Belgium and elsewhere for decades.

  • Acrobat_747

    Let me guess… he’s on a journey.

  • Teddybear

    All a PR stunt. Shinners in Tyrone and Fermanagh will still want to expel or eliminate Protestants if they’d half a chance. I’m not taken in by such things.

  • Declan Doyle

    Any chance it’s a genuine effort to recast relationships in Ireland?

  • Ernekid

    Any evidence for your fairly dramatic statement?

  • Gopher

    I notice Marty could not resist throwing in “Imperialist” into a commemoration. I’m not really sure commemorations are intended to be ideological well, not in one commemorating the Empires dead. I understand “Proud Irish Republicans” do things differently in theirs but we tend to keep politics out of ours in respect to the broad church the dead came from.

  • oTuama

    It seems that you can’t win with some cynical Unionists – he’s damned if he does; he’s damned if he doesn’t. Any gesture – no matter how genuine –
    is seen through narrow bigoted eyes as trying to get one over them. Give peace a chance for God’s sake and accept the gesture of reconcilliation for what it is – a gesture of reconcilliation.

  • ted hagan

    .Commemorations, loyalist and republican, are riddled with politics.

  • Gopher

    Don’t see that at the Cenotaph, your confusing yahoos with official apolitical rememberance.

  • Granni Trixie

    To some extent I agree with you about can’t win – were it not that gestures across the divide being bigged up by Republicans to some extent are sustained due to intimidatin and fear. For example, prior to 69 Catholics frequented the British Legion Club at Glengoland/Suffolk until it was dangerous to do so, Plus whatever happened to doing your job professionally? I mean If I wee Lord Mayor or an MLA I would expect to go to places I wouldn’t chose to and meet people Who as a private citizen I wouldn’t want to socialise with.

  • Katyusha

    Who literally cares what unionists or anyone else think about such a visit?

    It’s important to pay respects to our people who died in war. Any “present day” interpretation is largely irrelevant.

    Like you said, Irish men and women have paid their respects to those who died in ww1 for decades. They did so privately and without fuss. I don’t see why a public visit should be treated any differently.

  • oTuama

    Sadly Arlene, as First Minister to all of the people in the Six Counties, didn’t make a similar gesture of reconciliation regarding the 1916 commemorations and show herself to be the bigger person by going to Dublin.

  • Teddybear

    I went to school in Omagh in the 80s. I know what teachers and the pupils said. Some of them are now councillors. Many are their supporters and relatives. I remember how they used to make jokes about murders. I see those same people in Tyrone making honeyed statements in public but it’s all an act. I beg unionists not to fall for this garbage

  • Teddybear

    Arlene is honest. The 1916 rising was an act of terrorist grotesquery. Yes i know the Queen laid a wreath for them but she just obeys orders she’d lay a wreath for dead giraffes if No 10 told her to.

  • Ernekid

    WW1 was an imperialist war. It’s not exactly a controversial statement

  • Ernekid

    So you don’t have evidence then beyond some 30 year old prejudices.

  • Katyusha

    I’d normally agree, but the horrific and needless loss of life in the Great War represents to me the results of the elite classes in several nations being content to march their people into almost certain death for the sake of national prestige. It is a conflict that was far removed from the interests of the soldiers who were sent to fight in it.

    It is worthwhile to criticise the elitist and imperial mindset that led to such needless slaughter, to ensure that such values cannot be looked back upon as virtuous, so that such a mindset may never again gain traction in Europe. It is no slight against the valiant slain to admit that there was no reason for them to be at war in the first place.

  • Gopher

    It is if you employ it around a commemoration for the reason I have explained. Engage in a debate outside a commemoration your entitled to claim anything you want. As an aside you define what exactly an imperialist war is?

  • Ernekid

    Well an Imperialist War is a War between Empires. As the First World War was a clash of the great powers of the British Empire, The German Empire, The French Empire, The Russian Empire, The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, all with competing Imperialist goals and motivations to call World War 1 an imperialist war is entirely correct.

    You can commemorate the fallen and also lament the incredibly stupid reasons for their deaths and the First World War was a very stupid Imperialist war. The deaths of millions could have been avoided if the Royal cousins of the British King, the German Kaiser and the Russian Tsar decided to settle their differences over a long weekend together

  • Gopher

    Can you explain why it was needless?

  • submariner

    So you are claiming that your school teachers talked and joked with pupils about killing Protestants , are you expecting to Be taken seriously . Even Wullie and the Protestant coalition would be embarresed to make such a claim.

  • Gopher

    I Believe France was a Republic and was invaded, Britain I’m led to believe had a Government full of Radical Liberals. I think there was slightly more to it than names on a map.

  • Ernekid

    And they were both Empires.

  • Karl

    Because no one needed to order thousands of men to repeatedly advance against fortified lines where the result was already known for no gain. Thats why it was needless.
    Theres an argument that the war was also needless in that it could have been avoided in much the same way that empires were carved out without major conflict in the previous 40 years

  • Katyusha

    I know the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is usually interpreted as a pretext to a conflict that was primed to start as soon as any event could have been viably used as an excuse, but was there any need for either Russia or Germany to get involved in a relatively minor dispute between Serbia and Austria-Hungary – which was basically over a domestic terrorist attack? Was there any justification for Germany to mount an offensive westwards and attack Belgium and France? There seems to have been absolutely no attempt at a diplomatic resolution to what was essentially a diplomatic issue.

    Of course it meant nothing to Tsar, Kaiser or King how many young men they sent into the battlefield – the fact that diplomacy and negotiation could have saved many millions of lives does not seem to have been any concern to them. It would appear they were only too keen to have an excuse to crush their rivals and expand their hold over strategic territory.

    The conflict was started as a result of completely needless military escalation on both sides, with the most flimsy of justifications for attacking another sovereign nation state, and it was of no benefit to the ordinary men or women of any involved party as to which empire got to divide up Austria-Hungary or the Middle-East. It is a shame the guidance of the Second International was not upheld and the working classes did not turn against the aristocrats who merrily sent them to their deaths.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I suspect you made this up however to give you the benefit of the doubt, can you provide us with the evidence which led you to this conclusion?

  • Zig70

    Typical unionists, always thinking it is about you. The eyes are looking south. That is where the battle for hearts and minds is focused.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    “Who literally cares what unionists or anyone else think about such a visit?”

    Perhaps, allegedly at least, Sinn Fein? Marty claims to view the visit is part of “reconciliation” and talks about “reaching out the hand of friendship to unionists”.

    Unless of course you rightly recognise the thing as a Trojan horse canter?

  • chrisjones2

    Apart from scale what ws teh difference between the German Philosophy in II I and Sinn Feins?

    The sense of Imperial Entitlement and Superior Racial Purity and desire to create a single Empire uniting all the “German Peoples”. Very SF

  • NotNowJohnny

    So then, thirty years ago in your school in Omagh you heard some people make jokes about the killing of Protestants and you conclude from this that Sinn Fein members in Fermanagh still want to expel or eliminate Protestants today? The Germans bombed my da’s school in 1941 and every year he begs me not to buy bratwurst from the hotdog stand at the Christmas market in Belfast. Just because these people sell you a good sausage doesn’t mean they don’t want to kill you he says.

  • On the fence!

    Whether he means it or not, at least it’s a lot easier to stomach than some of the stuff that Gerry and Martina come out with.

    A sort of political “Happy Meal”.

  • Chingford Man

    The response below from the usual suspects tells you all we need to know. It’s a matter of historical record that the Republican movement was in the business of ethnic cleansing during the Troubles. Don’t be surprised if people here want to gloss over it. It wouldn’t do to be honest because then they would have to say when exactly those attitudes changed.

    I remember in 2004 there were plenty of numpties on Slugger who tried to argue that the Northern Bank job had nothing to do with the Ra.

  • Chingford Man

    At least under Brexit you will make a good living if you can sell whitewash.

  • Gopher

    I dont think you can blame the British or France for Germany invading France because Austro Hungary wanted to invade Serbia. As for Socialists of the time many were militant anti Germans . Robert Blatchford for instance was warned many times for publishing anti German pieces before the War.

    The war was far from needless, badly executed yes. Needless in the face of the proto Fascists of the German General staff nope

  • Gopher

    No one needed too but by that stage the Schliffen plan had failed the Russian Steamroller was defeated at Tannenberg and Austro Hungary had been repulsed in Serbia. War with 20th century weapons was out of the laboratory and beta testing in the real world. . To avoid war you would have had to un-invent the German and Austrian General staff.

  • Gopher

    Both were happy to be at peace

  • Ernekid

    Gopher. I recommend you read Christopher Clarks book ‘The Sleepwalkers’ outlining how and why Europe went to war in 1914. It’s clear that all the players were all to some extent culpable for the outbreak of war, not least the British military top brass who were eager to go to war in order to prove their perceived superiority. The idea that the war was started by the rapacious Huns who were preying on poor innocent Belgium has been well and truly despatched for decades.

  • Declan Doyle

    Well they have a chance, in fact both sides do. Either Unionists ir nationalists could decide to expel or eliminate the other if they were so inclined. But they are not, so your argument is pure bunkem!

  • Declan Doyle

    Funny how she hasn’t been ‘ordered’ to do likewise in other similar countries. Or maybe her gesture was a genuine act of reconciliation, or is she too incapable of such. I suppose the covenant was perfectly just too in your eyes?

  • Gopher

    I’m sorry but it has not been “despatched” except in the minds of people who think Blackadder is gospel. You get plenty of apologists for Germany whether WWI or II. Perhaps the best book to read on the subject is Walter Gorlitz’s biography of the German General staff.

  • Ernekid

    Do you have any evidence for his claims CM?

  • Declan Doyle

    It is not a case of glossing over, similar to the famine or early twentieth century bloody Sunday or other British acts of aggression against the Irish. The time is here that we try to accept the now and make genuine efforts at healing and reconciliation rather than remember everything and forgive nothing. Some are capable some are not, a pity for the latter.

  • Declan Doyle

    You can choose to believe it was genuine or choose to believe it wasn’t. But ultimately it is your choice and that choice reflects your prejudices rather than acknowledging the truth.

  • Sharpie

    Like as if he was on a plane, say a boeing, say a I dunno – a 747! Oh look, you are on a journey too. See what I did there. Aren’t we all on a journey towards valhalla, paradise, nirvana, Ulster.

  • Surveyor

    I bet Arlene wouldn’t turn down an invitation to attend an American Independence Day commemoration would she?

  • Surveyor

    Christ Almighty now we have the Northern Bank job being brought into it! This place has gone beyond a joke.

  • Surveyor

    All sides made sick jokes Teddy.

  • Acrobat_747

    ‘On a journey’ is NI political speech for ‘I was wrong’.

    SF act as if they have just woken up from decades of being drunk and are now sober and telling all the unionists that they are ‘on a journey’.

  • mac tire

    “It’s a matter of historical record that the Republican movement was in the business of ethnic cleansing during the Troubles…”

    Links?

    “Don’t be surprised if people here want to gloss over it. It wouldn’t do to be honest…”

    You have been spouting glossed over, dishonesty on here about that silly Conservative in fighty thing called Brexit every day.

    So much so that you are actually inviting me to cast my vote…

  • mac tire

    So, Teddybear, you are so dishonest with yourself that you allege that the Queen who many Unionists here worship (let’s face it, that is what it is – no false Gods etc), that you suggest she is obeying orders.
    Then why give the allegiance to her and not those who give the orders?

  • mac tire

    “I dont think you can blame the British or France for Germany invading France…”
    I dont think you can blame the Germany for Britain and France invading Greece…
    The fight for small nations, my arse. Imperialists as Ernekid has so kindly, and rightly, pointed out.

  • Gopher

    I think you will find the war had been going on for a certain amount of time and Greece entered the Entente.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Gopher, it’s hardly controversial to state that blaming Germany exclusively for the outbreak of the Great War is a gross simplification of everything. Both Britain and France were also culpable in differing ways. Both felt that German industrial competition could only develop into a greater problem for their own economies in future years and the “hawks” in both countries felt that a war might just do something to redress the advantages that Germany’s highly organised industrial base and her central trading position on Halford Mackinder’s “World Island” ensured for her. MacKinder’s argument was particularly pertinent for Britain’s concerns in supporting one of her other great Noirs, the Russian Empire:

    “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
    who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
    who rules the World-Island commands the world.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Geographical_Pivot_of_History

    Germany was certainly involved in political plots and schemes against both countries, but then both countries were also involved in similar plots against Germany in turn. This is in no way an attempt to produce an apologist argument for simply for Germany, but in so singularly blaming Germany and suggesting any other interpretation is only to be found in Blackadder, you are in danger of doing serious disservice to what is a far more complex history, and doing so sadly in the jingoistic manner of “Our Island Story”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Then Gopher, the element of Nationalist commemoration in the regular state 11th November events seems to somehow be invisible to you. Any state event must always carry under the overt dignity and simple familiarity of the event some degree of political motivation. Many Great war veterans felt this and were at pains to separate their annual remembering of the war they had fought in and of those men they had known who had died in that war from the homogenised state sponsored version, where others, some of whom had avoided service represented them in the wreath laying ceremony.

  • Ciaran O’Connor

    I think if the three wanted to go there, they should have went and told no-one. What has their act of remembrance got to do with unionists/loyalists? Nothing. If Irishmen and women want to remember their dead, what is it to do with anyone else? Well… you can read below a lot of people basically claiming ownership rights, through statements along the lines of ” oh you don’t do remembrance that way, you have to do it this way”. To hell with you, what’s it got to do with you?

  • Sharpie

    Are they not? When will unionism join them?

  • Gopher

    Germany was responsible for turning “Some damned foolish thing in the Balkans” into the World War Bismarck warned against. We’re Serbian hands clean, hell no, we’re Austro Hungarian hands clean again nope. Until Germany got involved and used it as a pretext for a world war it was a localised problem that could have been sorted out diplomatically.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    And you know what the “truth” actually is do you? Who told you?

  • Declan Doyle

    I choose what to believe based on comparing behaviour’s over periods of time and depending on circumstances. It’s a choice, it’s always a choice and we should try to break through are prejudices to fully understand the actions of others.

  • mac tire

    Forgive me if I take Professor Holger Herwig’s view on it in his ‘The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918’ rather than yours.
    “Paralleling the German violation of Belgian neutrality in 1914, British and French divisions invaded and occupied parts of neutral Greece.” (p.158)

  • Nevin

    Ciaran, it’s most unlikely they could have gone to those sites unnoticed. Just imagine the media frenzy if they had gone without announcement.

  • Ciaran O’Connor

    Surely any individual can say, has the right to say, “I’m here in a private capacity” and can at least ask for space from the media. Surely the latter won’t give them it, but they can always ask. The important point is that this is nothing to do with unionists/loyalists. They’re irrelevant to this process.

  • Nevin

    Do you think Martin should have left out those references to reconciliation, Ciaran?

  • Ciaran O’Connor

    Please don’t take my comments the wrong way. I’ve absolutely no problem under the sun with MMcG reaching out and making those statements BUT I guess he’s the joint first minister and he has other boxes to tick.

    When I bring my family up to the Somme to honour my great-grandfather who was at Suvla Bay, Greece, Palestine and France in WWI, or his brothers who were respectively in France with the Irish Rifles, being sunk by a uboat in Indomitable in the navy, or losing a leg at Minsk with the Canadian Expeditionary Force then I’ll do it without cameras and I won’t be seeking the permission of ANYONE. I’ll also spare a thought for my grandfather who was badly injured (head and chest) with the BEF early in the second war. I don’t need anyones leave to honour brave Irish men and women and I don’t give a damn what way they say it HAS to be done.
    We’ll go in a private capacity and we don’t have to ram it down anyones throat. Poppy fascists should probably take some notes there.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Of course Serbia, was looking for a show down with Austria Hungary, and it was not in Germany’s interests to see Austria Hungary humiliated, and Russia needed to support its ally. This is all common knowledge. But is laying the butter thick on this to suggest that culpability lies all on one side. Gopher, are you really suggesting that the accepted historical fact that the British Empire was also angling for a war at this moment is some gross defamation, and Britain was utterly pacifist in intent? All of that anti-German feeling, all those concerns about Germany swamping the Empire with cheap “shoddy” goods are something manufactured by late twentieth century ill willed “Pinko-Commie” historians who hate the British Empire and are all too ready to fabricate history in order to carry out some vile vendetta?

    No, Britain and Germany both had “Hawks” and “Doves”. In both countries there were those all too ready to attempt military dominance as a ready answer to perceived economic and territorial problems. It is absurd to suggests that an entirely innocent Britain was angled into a war by the wicked Kaiser fingering his waxed mustache in some feeble imitation of Todd Slaughter! To suggest this one sided “bully” version is simply far too “Our Island Story” for us adults who are concerned with actual history and not with distorting “My Country Right or Wrong” sentiment.

  • John Collins

    And Ian Paisley ridiculed Brian Faulkner on the day of his death, in a riding accident, and said Pope John Paul was in hell on the day of his death and yet tens of thousands of Protestants voted for him. Take the spoke out of your own eye.

  • Mountjoy

    It is no coincidence that in a week where true reconciliation might have been found in an acknowledgement to the Kingsmills Inquest in Belfast Martin is again reinventing himself at Messines and the Somme. Where might this long victorious march of forgetting over memory end up, at the centotaph in Enniskillen? The dead there much like Sir Norman Stronge, just people the civil rights campaigner read about on the way to peace.

  • Teddybear

    Ok

  • Teddybear

    A false gesture that is not meant. Are we honestly that naive or look so stupid?

  • Teddybear

    I owe allegiance to the UK. I’m not that much of a royalist

  • Teddybear

    I don’t have any evidence as I don’t go around taping conversations I hear or take part in. Why, do you?

    My dad used to make me lolly pops on Sunday evenings but I’ve no proof of that either. Lost the video cam I think

  • Johnny Magnum

    Off the scale on the bs detecter. You will find that Shinners and indeed most Nationalists in Fermanagh and Tyrone tolerate Orange parades to a high degree. Try for instance Ballygawley, Beragh, Sixmilecross, Dromore, Plumbridge, Augher, Clogher, Donaghmore, Fintona, Newtownstewart, Moy, Lisnaskea and Irvinestown. Hell even Republican strongholds like Coalisland and Strabane have Orange Halls near their main streets and hold Orange parades FFS. So this tired old cliché that Unionists and Loyalists peddle about ‘themuns not wanting a Prod about the place’ is complete fantasy that feeds the whole “under siege” crap you believe.

  • Robert ian Wiliams

    If the Queen can honour the dead at Parnell Square,. Martin is very welcome on the Somme. I think most thinking nationalists are embarrassed by the designation of “gallant allies” on the Proclamation. The Germans had previously armed the UVF and were only interested in attacking Britain, they even over ran neutral Belgium. If Hitler had done that to Eire in 1940 we would have rescued you.

  • Robert ian Wiliams

    Ian paisley said things in his life he regretted. he was a kind and decent man, and I had the privilege of meeting him. He was asked what was his true identity by an interview on Premier radio..he said , “First and foremost I am a child of God, a sinner saved by Grace.” I hope I meet him again in Heaven.

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