Sinn Fein motion to form centenaries group fails

Craigavon's new Councillor Johnny McGibbon. LM32-135gc
Craigavon's new Councillor Johnny McGibbon. LM32-135gc
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A CENTENARY row has erupted in Craigavon Borough Council, with several 100th anniversaries due to be marked over the next decade.

Among them are the formation of the old UVF (2013), the Battle of the Somme (2016), the Easter Rising (2016) and the formation of Northern Ireland (2021).

A Sinn Fein motion for the council to form “an all-party working group” to deal with the centenaries has been rejected by unionists, who dismissed it as “a political stunt”, adding that most of the anniversaries would occur after Craigavon Borough Council is merged in 2015 with Banbridge and Armagh to form the so-called ABC Council.

The Sinn Fein motion was signed by Councillors Mark O’Dowd and Johnny McGibbon who insisted it was designed to create a more inclusive approach to the various anniversaries and enable all parties to make a contribution, and it was “based on the principles contained in a similar motion adopted by all partes at Stormont”.

And in an angry statement afterwards, Mr O’Dowd claimed that what he termed the politics of division were still the order of the day for unionist members of the council.

He added, “It was apparent from the start that the unionists had broken ranks with their Assembly colleagues when they attempted to prevent discussion on the motion on the basis of a technical error. We found this surprising in that both the DUP and UUP had already agreed that inclusiveness, tolerance and education were the basis of dealing with the current decade of historical anniversaries.

“The insecurity of local unionists denied the council an opportunity to learn from each other and build better community relationships within Craigavon.”

However, Deputy Mayor Arnold Hatch dismissed the statement as “typical posturing and political opportunism by Sinn Fein”.

He claimed: “The Stormont situation and the local government situation on these issues are totally different. At the time of most of the centenaries, the councils will cease to exist while, hopefully, the Assembly will be moving on. The councils set-up will be that pertaining after the formation of the so-called super councils, and the decision on these issues will be made then.

“Sinn Fein are totally hypocritical when they speak of inclusiveness, better community relations, tolerance and education. No party has been more divisive than Sinn Fein, and we see no prospect of that improving. It’s typical opportunism, as nobody knows better than Sinn Fein that the local government scene will have moved on.

“I also have to say that the Somme Centenary should not be politicised in any shape or form, as soldiers of every part and community of Ireland perished in the First World War.”