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Sinn Féin battle for inclusive strategy to celebrate significant anniversaries at Belfast City Council

9 November, 2010

Sinn Féin has criticized the SDLP for ignoring important centenaries such as the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising and other important historical events and siding with the DUP in a vote to only fund events to mark the centenary of 1912.

Last week, at a special meeting of the Development Committee, Council officers proposed that £1million gets ring-fenced (£600k from existing budgets) for a range of commemorative events relating to 2012.

Sinn Féin, in the context of the uncertain economic climate and a lack of detail as to where the £1m would be spent, asked for deferment on this proposal until there were in-depth party briefings.

Sinn Féin argued strongly the need for an inclusive look at a Decade of Centenaries of intense political significance on this island including James Connolly’s role in Belfast prior to 1916, The Somme, the 400th anniversary of The Plantation and The First Dáil as well as other significant events in the time ahead.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Conor Maskey said;

“We felt that our party’s suggestions to have greater debate around spending rate payers’ money in such difficult times were perfectly reasonable. Not least we should be examining where this money will be taken from within existing budgets (e.g. what events will suffer to realise this spend?).

“Investment in heritage tourism needs to be done in a visionary and imaginative way which will maximise tourism and provide jobs, regeneration and celebrate our history.
“A more inclusive approach to this issue would enable all parties to make valuable contributions on behalf of their constituents as we move into a very important Decade of Centenaries.
“We feel that core principles need to be established to ensure balance around these events and to critically analyse their importance, not just simply celebrate and commemorate.”

“I find it bizarre that the SDLP councillors, in a heartbeat, effectively pledged £1m to 2012 events without agreeing to having in-depth party discussions and ultimately ignoring the need for a plan and principles to be applied around significant events. They are effectively joining with the DUP in taking a narrow issue-by-issue approach to these extremely important events.”

“We believe that the SDLP are being lead by the nose by the worst elements of the DUP on these and many other vitally important issues in Belfast City Council.”

“Sinn Féin will continue to inject realism into this issue and ensure that Ireland’s other politically significant centenaries are dealt with appropriately. We will continue to battle for an inclusive strategy to deal with the forthcoming Decade of Centenaries.”

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