Belfast City Council to invite Irish Government to Somme Commemoration

Not a bad opening gambit ahead of all those anniversaries.  Belfast City Council have agreed to invite the Irish Government to participate in the Somme and Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Belfast [this year?].  But it wasn’t unanimous.  From the BBC report

SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy proposed the move which was discussed at a city council meeting on Wednesday evening.

There was no opposition to the motion. The two main unionist parties, the DUP and the UUP, agreed with the SDLP on the issue.

However, it proved a step too far for Sinn Fein which abstained in the vote.

I’m assuming Alliance Party councillors also agreed…

Adds The updated BBC report now notes

There was no opposition to the motion. The DUP, the UUP and the Alliance Party backed the SDLP.

Sinn Fein tried to amend the motion by having the issue dealt with by a working group of the council.

The party abstained from the vote.

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  • sherdy

    Next step for the SDLP – an invite to the Paras for a hooley in Derry to celebrate Bloody Sunday!

  • Red Rob

    Fair play to the SDLP, a progressive step and once again shows up the bigotry in the SF ranks within Belfast City Hall.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Red Rob
    By your definition, unionists are ‘bigoted’ because they don’t attend Irish republican commemorations.

    Quite a silly interpretation of the word.

    This actually presents Irish nationalists with an opportunity to challenge unionism to agree to developing the city council commemoration as a shared initiative, reflective of both traditions. That should mean official recognition of the National flags of both Britain and Ireland, as well as involvement of both State forces.

  • HeinzGuderian

    How so Chris ?
    Where the irish army fighting at The Somme ?

    I fully applaud this initiative. For far too long brave irishmen who served with The British Army in Two Word Wars have been treated as pariahs by our republican chums.
    I,for one,wear my poppy to remember them.

    We know our Southern neighbours rejected marty and his party,but doesn’t this smack as childishness (ala British Army Uniform) from the shinners ?

  • Harry Flashman

    “Where the irish army fighting at The Somme ?”

    There was an Irish Division made up of Irish regiments from what later became the Irish Republic, most of those soldiers, if not were Irish nationalists, many were even republicans. Their nationality deserves recognition.

    By the same token if Scotland became independent they would be entitled to regard the Scottish troops who fought in the wars as Scottish soldiers and be represented by the Scottish flag.

    The same applies to troops from India and Pakistan, parts of the Empire and fighting under a British flag, today their sacrifice is recognized by independent India and Pakistan and they are represented by the flags of those nations.

    If the modern day Irish army under their national flag wish to honour the service of Irishmen prior to Irish independence it would be churlish and ignorant to refuse them that honour.

    Good neighbourliness and good manners goes a long way I usually find.

  • cynic2

    SF – the All Ireland Party that doesn’t want an Irish Minister invited

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: By your definition, unionists are ‘bigoted’ because they don’t attend Irish republican commemorations.
    The key difference is, the Somme commemorations will cover both unionists and nationalists who were at the Somme. I don’t believe you will be able to identify a republican commemoration that will do anything similar. That is what you would need to be able to make a direct comparison.
    So far as I am aware, there is nothing in the Republican calendar that marks any sort of common endeavour. That’s something for the SF director of unionist engagement to consider…

  • cynic2

    ” there is nothing in the Republican calendar that marks any sort of common endeavour”

    ….how could there be …its an ideology founded on a racist myth

  • Chris Donnelly

    ….how could there be …its an ideology founded on a racist myth

    Cynic
    I think you’ll find that you are confusing republicanism with the imperialist mentality which created the Empire in the first place….

    Heinz
    Harry has provided you with the obvious answer.

    If unionists are serious about wanting this to be a shared engagement, then that will entail organising the event in a manner which respects the fact that tens of thousands of those Irish who fought in World War I were fighting (albeit foolishly) for the promise of Home Rule for Ireland.

    The involvement of the sovereign Irish government will mean nothing if it does not involve respecting what that stands for in modern Ireland.

    The key difference is, the Somme commemorations will cover both unionists and nationalists who were at the Somme. I don’t believe you will be able to identify a republican commemoration that will do anything similar.

    Reader
    You are quite wrong on this front. Unless the event involves affording the same respect to those who fought from Ireland as Irish nationalists (ie in the manner I outlined above) then this will not be about what you suggest.

    It will merely be the same as Irish republicans commemorating the United Irish rebellion, involving as it did protestants and catholics.

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: Unless the event involves affording the same respect to those who fought from Ireland as Irish nationalists (ie in the manner I outlined above) then this will not be about what you suggest.
    Surely inviting presumed nationalist official representatives from the Irish nationalist state does just that. No-one will be pretending to be unionist for the day. And northern nationalists have presented wreaths in previous years too.
    The ‘problem’ is just that republicans are being left behind. But it’s their own fault.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Reader
    Invitations alone can’t achieve that objective, unless you are willing to argue that merely inviting a unionist representative to a republican commemoration makes it inclusive of both traditions.

  • When will Belfast City Council be discussing an apology to the peoples who were oppressed and plundered by the Empire on behalf of which WWI was fought? That would be a truly progressive move – remembering why WWI was fought in the first place, and expressing the determination to resist imperialist war in future.

    But instead, we can squabble about whether it was a good thing that both nationalists and unionists helped oppress other peoples.

  • galloglaigh

    Reader

    The Irish government’s own commemoration is a republican commemoration – given the fact that they are a republican government.

    Heinz

    You asked if the Irish army fought in World War I, when it was said that the Irish flag should be recognised. I would like to ask you – why is the UVF’s flag OK in such commemorations, when the UVF as an organisation, didn’t fight in the said war?

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: Invitations alone can’t achieve that objective, unless you are willing to argue that merely inviting a unionist representative to a republican commemoration makes it inclusive of both traditions.
    I started by referring to the people being commemorated. When you fell back on the event itself, I commented on the identity and attitude of those who might attend the event. Now you are referring to the people who sent out the invitations – what next, whether they used blue or green ink?
    Suppose you sent out invitations to unionists to go to Bodenstown – what names would they see on a memorial? what names would be read out? In republican commemorations, contemporary unionists were the enemy.
    As I pointed out, republicanism does not share any common endeavour with unionism; it cannot build a bridge, and it won’t cross anyone else’s bridge.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I started by referring to the people being commemorated. When you fell back on the event itself, I commented on the identity and attitude of those who might attend the event. Now you are referring to the people who sent out the invitations – what next, whether they used blue or green ink?

    Reader
    You seem to have difficulty understanding what is basically a very simple point.

    If the commemoration is to be a ‘shared’ endeavour, then it must be reflective of both traditions- not simply presented through a British prism, complete with British symbols and members of said armed forces.

    The First World War is indeed unique in that nationalists and unionists fought alongside one another; but ignoring the fact that they did so for very different reasons will not succeed in making it a shared endeavour nor in doing justice to any such initiative which could prove worthwhile.

    Hence the reason that I identified the necessity of incorporating an explicitly Irish nationalist dimension to such a commemoration alongside that of the British unionist dimension traditionally associated with such gatherings (this isn’t new by the way- look up what Glenn Barr and others have been doing in Derry for quite some time now.)

    Ironically, the initative is coming from nationalism and republicanism in the past decade (Sinn Fein’s own remembrance initiative at City Hall and the involvement of the SDLP in this initiative) so it is a bit strange to suggest that this is not an example of nationalism seeking to build bridges.

  • “The First World War is indeed unique in that nationalists and unionists fought alongside one another; but ignoring the fact that they did so for very different reasons will not succeed in making it a shared endeavour nor in doing justice to any such initiative which could prove worthwhile.”

    This is the sort of logic about the commemoration of WWI that drives me up the wall. The cold reality is that while home rule nationalists and unionists may have had different visions of how Ireland should be administered, they were both varieties of British imperialism; it made little difference to the peoples of Africa and Asia whether there was a parliament in Dublin or not, and whether the soldiers oppressing them wanted one or not.

    There is absolutely nothing to be gained that is worthwhile from any commemoration or remembrance of WWI that does not confront the fundamental nature of that war. And that anyone who would claim to stand in the tradition of Connolly would see it any other way I find incredible.

    What we are seeing here, though, is the limitations of nationalism as a progressive force in the modern world. Whenever I read stuff like this, I can’t help thinking of the names of the two sides in the Spanish civil war. The forces of reaction being nationalists, and the forces of progress being republican.

  • HeinzGuderian

    ‘There was an Irish Division made up of Irish regiments from what later became the Irish Republic, most of those soldiers, if not were Irish nationalists, many were even republicans. Their nationality deserves recognition.’

    Maybe you should take that up with the Southern Irish Government Harry.
    As I recall retuning British Soldiers from that locality were treated as pariahs.

    ‘Good neighbourliness and good manners goes a long way I usually find.’

    Indeed.

  • HeinzGuderian

    ‘You asked if the Irish army fought in World War I, when it was said that the Irish flag(?) should be recognised………..’ Gall…

    Indeed I did ask that…..still waiting for an answer….

    By ‘irish’ flag I take it you mean Southern Irish flag ?

  • galloglaigh

    Heinz

    But what about the UVF – That’s the big elephant in the room you seem to have avoided!

    Surely if you think a UVF flag is fine, and I’m assuming you do, how can you object to the “Southern Irish flag”?

  • galloglaigh

    Heinz

    Maybe I could try to understand your question by posing one of my own:

    Did the Czechoslovakian army fight in WWI?

  • Alan N/Ards

    Well done the “politicians” of Belfast City Council. For once a bit of maturity has been shown.

    Chris
    We hear of the united Irishmen and of Bodenstown from republicans and how the prebyterians who led are revered by the republican movement past and present. Yet didn’t the republican legend Sean Mc Bride not lead an ira unit to attck several bus loads of Shankill Rd protestants trying to attend the commemoration in 1934. George Gilmore a protestant member of the Republican Congress said that it would be a long time before “Come on the Shankill” would be heard again at Bodenstown because of it. And boy he was right. Whether you like it or not this is a positive move and like in Londonderry it would be good to see the flag of the irish army flying alongside the flag of the british army.

    In Tim Collins auto biography there is a photo of the Royal Irish on St. Patrick’s day in Kuwait 2003 just before the 2nd Gulf war started. In it you will the soldiers of the Royal Irish having a chariot race and they are waving a number of different flags…. The Cross of St. Patrick, Northern Ireland flag and the Republic’s Tricolour. These irish soldiers have shown the rest of us how things should be done and can be done with a bit of goodwill and common sense.

  • JR

    “As I recall retuning British Soldiers from that locality were treated as pariahs.”

    Geepers Heinz, I didn’t realise you were so old!

  • Chris Donnelly

    There is absolutely nothing to be gained that is worthwhile from any commemoration or remembrance of WWI that does not confront the fundamental nature of that war. And that anyone who would claim to stand in the tradition of Connolly would see it any other way I find incredible.

    Garibaldy
    There is nothing in what I have said that suggests that such a gathering can not also express the futility of the deaths on both sides involved in the First World War- indeed, Sinn Fein spokespersons, speaking in relation to this particular initiative, have also stressed their desire to ensure that was the case.

    I’ve only read a little about the Derry initiative (press reports online) but I note the inclusion of the flags of Germany and other countries involved in the conflict at these remembrance services, which would be consistent with recognising that the loss of ordinary people’s lives in an imperialist conflict was futile.

    Alan
    You point to a particularly despicable act at one commemoration, and I share the condemnatory sentiments of Gilmore.

    But that solitary incident is hardly a reason to suggest that either republicans aren’t sincere in seeking to remember their war dead of a non-catholic disposition nor is it an excuse for unionists to avoid finding a means to respect the significance of 1798 as part of the Irish nationalist narrative and within their own community, given the fact that many protestants today could probably trace their family history back to many of those involved in the rebellion.

  • Jimmy Sands

    But that solitary incident

    Really?

  • Barnshee

    ” an excuse for unionists to avoid finding a means to respect the significance of 1798″

    No excuse necessary
    The lessons for the prods from 97/98?

    R/Catholics turned on prods at Scullabogue and murdered them.
    TRhen

    Failed to turn up a Battle of t Antrim and Left prods to it (even made up a song about “fteetfoot hosts of men –too late too late are they”

    Significance of 97/8 my arse

  • Hopping The Border

    Agree with the sentiments concerning the commemoration and the right to have the Tri colour displayed at any such commemoration, for the reasons Harry has stated.

    However, given the sensitive nature of some unionists/loyalists concerning the flag of their nearest neighbour (albeit with elements of justification given its symbolism to some via association) I can’t imagine the Council or the City being able to take this step for quite a while yet.

    Certain unionists were apoplectic over the a Christmas greeting in Irish, one wonders what reaction the sight of the Tri Colour flying in the grounds of City Hall, for so long the bastion of Unionism, would provoke.

    However I don’t think a 1798 commemoration can be used as a comparative situation.

    The fundamental reasoning behind 1798 was the establishment of a republic, therefore unionism is its very antithesis. The only way Unionists could attend would be as representatives of the “other” side, not as brothers in arms as those who fought in WW1 were.

    That 1798 attempted to encompass all religions, whilst admirable, is unfortunately irrelevant to any comparison, since it was a war between political ideologies.

    Finally, cynic2, for a contributor who generally provides reasonable contributions,

    “….how could there be …its an ideology founded on a racist myth”

    is frankly idiotic. Were the french republicans also racists?

    Does the 1916 proclamation read to you as a racist charter?

    I need not remind you of Tone’s religion, nor the majority religion of the Belfast participants.

    Perhaps you could back up your assertion with some evidence/reasoned arguments?

  • What Alan said.

    As for some of the rest I guess it’s not surprising that whataboutery, as usual on threads like this, has reared its ugly head.