Derry republican and Sinn Fein party member, Conor Heaney, visited the grave of his great-grandfather for the first time in France this week.
Conor is a special advisor to deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness and along with the newly elected MLA for Foyle, they visited the site of the Battle of the Somme where Conor’s great-grandfather, Patrick Heaney, lost his life in July, 1916.
“It was a very important day for me and, in my view, a good day for reconciliation,” Conor told the ‘Journal’.
“I was very pleased to get the chance to visit my great-grandfather Patrick’s grave, so far away from Derry and I hope all the publicity around this will mean his legacy and the legacy of great-grand uncles John Heaney and Charlie O’Donnell are well remembered.”
Conor affirmed his disapproval of the First World War but said he could understand.
“I am still a proud Irish republican and my views on the tragedy of the First World War haven’t changed, but I have a greater understanding of how my family and many other families from Derry and Ireland got caught up in it.”
Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, was invited to attended the 100th anniversary commemorations by the Flemish Government.
Mr. McGuinness visited Flanders to commemorate the Battle of Messines on Wednesday and yesterday travelled to the site of the Battle of the Somme.
It was during his visit to Flanders that Mr. McGuinness joined Flemish Prime Minister, Geert Bourgeois, in a wreath laying ceremony at the Island of Ireland Peace Park in Messines.
“It was very important for me to come here and to demonstrate respect and to remember those who died in the Battle of the Somme and the millions from all nations killed in a catastrophic imperialist war,” said Mr. McGuinness.
“We have a shared and complex history on the island of Ireland. As we move forward we all have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way that is respectful and encourages reconciliation among our people.
“I hope that my presence here contributes to that reconciliation process in a positive and constructive way.”