Council agrees on centenary body

Dublin in the wake of the Easter Rising 1916

Dublin in the wake of the Easter Rising 1916

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A working group is to be established to plan centenary commemorations and look at physical memorials regarding the Easter Rising, the Battle of the Somme and other major anniversaries.

Sinn Fein Councillor Ruari McHugh put forward a motion to his colleagues at Derry City and Strabane District Council calling for the special body to be set up to address the issue.

Royal Irish Rifiles rational party during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

Royal Irish Rifiles rational party during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

Speaking ahead of the Easter Rising and Somme anniversaries in 2016, Colr. McHugh urged fellow councillors to agree to “mark the decade of 100th anniversary from 1913 - 1923 in a fitting and dignified manner, by giving recognition to the diverse narratives of the period, including the 1916 Easter Rising, the Battle of the Somme and other significant events”.

He proposed that this should be done “by putting in place a working group that will compile a commemorative programme and explore the establishment of physical memorials, reporting to the Business and Culture Committee by October 2015.”

The motion was carried after unionist councillors joined nationalists in backing it.

Democratic Unionist Party Councillor Hilary McClintock said her party would ‘tentatively’ support the motion, provided certain conditions were met.

The flag flown from the Post Office during the Easter Rising.

The flag flown from the Post Office during the Easter Rising.

This would include, Colr. McClintock said, the involvement of a historian who would be acceptable to all communities and “equal representation” on the body from across the divide.

Speaking to the motion, Colr. McHugh the Easter Rising was a time of “huge significance” for the people if Ireland.

“The coming period will be a time of commemoration for those who worked, fought and died for Irish freedom,” he said.

Colr. McHugh said it was the intention to celebrate “those brave men and women” from the North West who joined others across the country to fight for freedom.

Infantrymen occupying a shallow trench in a ruined landscape before an advance during the Battle of the Somme. (Photo: PA/PA Wire)

Infantrymen occupying a shallow trench in a ruined landscape before an advance during the Battle of the Somme. (Photo: PA/PA Wire)

Stating that all events would be aimed at exploring local history, he said:

“We would like to engage people from across the political spectrum to join with us.

“We invite people to join with us in exploring the past and shaping a new shared Ireland that respects diversity.”

Colr. McClintock said the DUP recognised the significance of the coming dates, adding that some would be more significant to some sections of the community than they would be to others.

She added that her party believed it was right that councillors adopted a mature attitude that promotes tolerance, and said a very special approach was needed given the diverse nature of the historic narrative, and issues of sensitivity, which will surround these anniversaries .

“Crucial to this will be the establishment of a balanced working group,” she said.

SDLP Councillor Gerry Diver agreed that the establishment of the council-led working group was a good idea .

“It should be balanced and have the historian input to it,” he said.

He added that in terms of physical memorials, these “need to be very, very carefully considered as well”.

Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher said the council should make itself aware of the centenary events being organised by others to avoid duplication.

Colr. McHugh’s motion was carried without objection at the meeting.