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.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs