Saturday, September 07, 2013

British royals, politicians and Unionist leaders will be invited to Dublin to remember those who fought for Irish freedom.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said he hoped to host representatives of the royal family and the British Government, along with the leaders of unionism, at commemorations for the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016.

Mr Gilmore also wants all sides to respectfully remember those who gave their lives at the battle of the Somme, as well as Irish men who died fighting in a British uniform.

In an address to be given later to the British Irish Association in Cambridge, he said both countries shared a dual history.

"Unless we are attentive and respectful to both traditions, nationalist and unionist, we will remain a divided society," he said.

"We each bear a dual civic responsibility."

Mr Gilmore, who plans to lay a wreath at Belfast's Cenotaph on Remembrance Day for the second year running, said all have a responsibility to prepare and carry out commemorations in a way that gives no offence and is mindful of the sensitivities of all citizens.

Highlighting worries over "continuous tensions" in Northern Ireland in recent months, the Tánaiste warned that residents fear a return to sectarian violence.

"Both communities and the organisations which claim to represent them have the right to celebrate their history and traditions," he said.

"But if these events commemorate acts of conflict or involve displays of triumphalism or antagonism against their neighbour then people need to reflect more deeply about the value of such commemorations and how they are marked."

Elsewhere, Mr Gilmore raised concerns that voices advocating Britain's detachment from Europe were gaining in strength and volume.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership and hold an "in-out" referendum if re-elected in 2015.

"A UK detachment from Europe would be bad for Europe which is better for Britain's voice," Mr Gilmore said.

"I believe it would be bad for Britain, diminishing, rather than enhancing, its voice in international affairs.

"It would be bad for Northern Ireland which has benefitted immeasurably from the EU - economically, financially, socially and indeed politically.

"It would be bad for the Republic if its most important economic partner were to distance itself from the European Union. And it would be bad for North-South co-operation.

"But most pertinent for our purposes this weekend, I believe it would be bad for British-Irish relations."

Mr Gilmore travelled to England after attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers for talks on Syria, Egypt and the Middle East Peace Process with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

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